It will get worse before it gets better. NO ONE is immune to bullying. It can happen to anyone, for reasons that may surprise you. All parents should have discussions about bullying as soon as their child begins interacting with other children. Bullies could be their siblings, neighbors, or classmates at day care. Children will begin to understand this concept between the ages of 3 to 4. Keep the discussion very simple at this age.
Preventing your child from becoming a bully or being bullied can be done in many ways. Teaching and modeling positive behaviors are a must; sharing, taking turns and using good manners. You might demonstrate or role-play. Certainly intervening and reinforcing when you observe positive behaviors, is always a good idea. When you witness negative behavior, also intervene and introduce a better behavior. Sometimes it is a good idea to simply step back and observe when issues arise. Give them an opportunity to work things out on their own.
Let’s recap. Supervision, observation and reinforcement are the most effective ways to teach good behaviors. Intervene only when children cannot work things out, on their own. If mean spirited or aggressive behavior occurs, intervene immediately and teach a better way to handle a difficult situation. These are simple steps to teach young children how to handle bullying.
1. Ignore if possible.
2. Use your words to share how you feel.
3. Use your words to share your wishes.
Example dialogue for a young child: “it makes me mad when you take my toy, let’s take turns.” If this simple dialogue does not work, then an adult can offer them direction.
This simple concept of using your words to cope can carry you through life. Keep in mind, it should always be non-threatening and without blame. A suggestion should follow with a possible solution. This mantra is always a good one to remember no matter what age you are; “Do on to others as you would want others to do onto you”. Role model this concept for your children and remind them how this will help them through the tough times.
Let’s get back to the introduction. No matter how we live our lives there will always be someone that won’t approve, agree or be threatened by us. This is not wrong unless those people choose to make our life difficult for those reasons. Harassing, name-calling, using profanity or violence is wrong and should not be tolerated. If it is an isolated incident; it might be stopped by ignoring or using words. Guide your child, not to stoop to their level with a payback. This usually makes matters worse.
As your child gets older, teach assertive behaviors and encourage them to let the bully know, in no uncertain terms, to stop. That statement could go as simple as this, “Knock it off” or “I don’t appreciate that. Don’t do it again”. If it does continue, then they need to tell someone in charge. Don’t waste any time, especially if it becomes violent.
This is the bad news. It will probably get worse before it gets better. What often happens is, it becomes a “he said/she said” report. If there is a witness that can verify the bullying, that can help. Of course an admission of guilt is ideal, but don’t expect it. In this case, the person in charge may have to witness the bullying before they can act on it.
Bullies often retaliate when they are busted or get others to join in. They also become sneakier so they won’t get caught. Your child will now be known as a snitch and will probably want to drop the whole thing. Unfortunately this will not make it stop. Strongly encourage them to stay the course and let them know you have their back. Give them these specific instructions to follow when it occurs again:
1. Avoid the areas if possible, where you know the bully will be.
2. Walk to classes or lunch with others.
3. Do not make eye contact or say anything to the bully.
4. If it happens again, report it again to the principal, with a witness if possible.
5. Let the principal know when and where this is happening.
6. If it’s in a classroom, tell the teacher in charge.
7. If it’s in the lunchroom, tell the supervisors.
Parents should also be proactive and talk to the principal. Let him/her know how concerned you are and offer your support to stop this. Ask to see the districts “bullying policy”. Check what steps are taken and that they are following the proper protocol with your child. Ask him/her to share the bullying incidents with the staff in case they witness this behavior. Contact the principal each time the bullying takes place so he/she knows you will not let this rest.
Parents also have the option of contacting the parent of the bully. Tread very lightly if you do, so that they do not feel threatened in any way. This conversation can make or break the outcome of the problem. Keep the following in mind.
• Stick to the facts, as they were reported to you.
• Stay calm and non-threatening.
• Ask them if they are aware of the issue.
• Ask them if your child has done anything to offend their child.
• Ask them to discuss this issue with their child and to let you know if there is anything you can do to help rectify the situation.
The dialogue could go something like this: “Hello, this is Mrs. Johnson, my son is Tom Johnson is a 6th grader at Kennedy junior high. He has reported to me that he’s had issues with your son, Mark. Has Mark shared this with you? Has my son done anything to offend your son?
This is what I’ve been told, (share what you know). Could you possibly discuss this with your child? Please call me if there is anything my son or I could do to help rectify the situation. Thank-you. Good-bye
They may or may not discuss this with their child. They may or may not get back to you. You cannot control their behavior. At least, they are informed and hopefully will act on the information you shared. Could it still get worse, it’s possible. You then call again and use the same type of dialogue you did the first time. If you have a witness ask if they would mind sharing their name. You may add, that they will continue to hear from you if the bullying persists.
Keep in mind; there are other resources that can help if the bullying escalates. If a threat of any kind is made toward your child, or if the act becomes physical, you have another option. Besides sharing with school administration, you can also file a complaint with your police department.
Whatever you do, don’t drop the ball. The message to the bully would be that they won. They will not learn from the incident. They may stop bullying your child but will move on to someone else. The message to your child would be, that you don’t care enough to see things through for them.
If you are the parent of a bully, intervene immediately. Don’t make excuses for them. Get the facts and give a consequence. The punishment should fit the crime. The more serious the crime; the more serious the punishment should be. It should always begin with an apology to the victim. Discuss why bullying is serious issue and the problems that will arise if it continues. Teach a better way to interact with others. Modeling those behaviors is a must. Children learn what they live.
Many things motivate a bully. Most often it is a learned behavior. Sometimes it can be a bias, bigotry or a misguided prejudice. They may be insecure about who they are or jealous of someone else.
Counseling is often a successful way to change this type of behavior. A feeling or event may surface that the bully has repressed. If that is the case, they will need to learn how to cope and relearn appropriate behaviors. Counseling will also help them to express their feelings effectively.