Bullying. We hear all kinds of stories about it on the news. We know it is wrong. We might know others who have experienced it. We worry it could happen to our children. We think about what we would do if it happen to our child. We wonder if our child would know what to do if it happened to them. Would our own child would do if they saw it happening to someone else?
So what can we as parents do?
Learn what bullying is…
StopBullying.gov defines bullying as: unwanted, aggressive behavior (that can include verbal bullying: teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, threatening to cause harm, social bullying: leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, embarrassing someone in public and physical bullying: hitting/kicking/pinching, spitting, tripping/pushing, taking or breaking someone’s things, making mean or rude hand gestures) among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.
Learn what you do to help reduce bullying…
It is important for us to remember that some of the above behaviors are a natural part of what kids do, for example teasing, children kidding, leaving someone out. These social behaviors are a normal part of growing up, learning to navigate social situations and developing important problem solving skills.
While it is our job as parents to protect our children, it is also our job to empower them. There are several ways we can do this…
Ask them how school went, ask them about recess. “Who did you play with today at recess?” Ask them about lunch, “Who do you sit with?”, “How is it going?”
Be a good example for your children
Model for your kids how we treat others and how you talk about others. Refrain from talking negatively, making fun of and gossiping about others in front of your children. Our children listen to us, watch us and learn from our words and actions
Model and teach good problem solving skills
When they have a problem ask them, “What have you tried so far?” “What are your choices…”. When they make a good choice empower them with positive phrases, “…that was a good choice.” Work through how an event went, “what didn’t go well…”, “What could you do next time?”
Empathy can be slow to develop in children. It is common for preschoolers and even elementary-aged to be slow to develop this skill of considering others feelings first. Most typically developing children will develop empathy for others when they are teenagers. Parents can encourage, guide and help our children develop this trait.
“…I think it is important to teach our children how to react to bullying when they observe it so that they can become an instrument of change instead of an audience.” Rage Against The MiniVan
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Desmond Tutu
Learn what to do if bullying happens…
If you think your child is being bullied and they haven’t said anything you can:
Ask about their day, ask who are you getting along with and using a phrase like “I noticed…”. It might happen while you are watching a TV show together, coloring together (if it is a younger child) or sitting at the dinner table talking, riding in the car (great with teenagers).
- Get times, dates, and places
- Be as precise as you can
Some questions you can ask:
- What kids were there?
- Was there a teacher who saw what happened?
- Who was the kid who called you names or hurt you?
- Where did this happen?
- When did it happen?
- What, exactly, did the kid say to you?
- What, exactly, did you say to the?
- What exactly did you do?
- Is this the only time this happened?
- What other times did it happen?
- Did this person do anything else to you?
Most of all, use what you know about your child and use your judgement to assess the situation in your mind. Empower your child to be a good problem solver, empower your child to take their own actions first and then, when needed, step in to contact the teacher for help.
Important Note: If your child has been physically harmed, threatened, or anything with inappropriate touch you should contact your child’s teacher / principal immediately.
There are a wealth of resources in the library and online for how to help reduce bullying. These are just a few starting points and guidelines for parents. Below I have included a variety of resources you can explore for more information and strategies on dealing with and reducing bullying.
By educating yourself, doing a few things at home and keeping the conversations open with your children parents can begin to help change the power bullies have on kids.
More Resources on Bullying:
Carrie Baughcum is the momma of two keep you on your toes amazing girls, a wife, mismatch sock wearer, doodler, and a learning enthusiast. She is also a Special Education teacher of 16 years who believes that all children can learn, we just have to find out how. Carrie started the Parent Zone with Teachcow.com as a place where parents can connect and learn from other parents and educators because together we are capable of anything! You can find Carrie here at the Parent Zone and you can also see what else she is up to at her blog carriebaughcum.com where she thinks life, learning and doodles are Heck Awesome.