Dads are often the last to know when our child is the victim of bullying. Children often do not share with their parents that they are being bullied due to shame and embarrassment. Use these 10 tips to protect your kids from bullies and help resolve school conflicts.
1) Know the Warning Signs: Understand that bullying can occur in physical, non-verbal, or online (cyber bullying) forms. If another child teases your child consistently, this represents a form of verbal bullying. Watch closely, anything from a lack of desire to attend school to sudden falling grades are possible signs your child might be experiencing a bullying problem.
2) Talk to Your Child: Be intentional about how you spend time talking with your child. Spend regular time making it clear that your child can talk to you about anything, especially tough situations at school. If your child knows you are interested in the small, daily things; he or she will be more comfortable to tell you the bigger things.
3) Teach Your Values: How you talk with your child daily will shape how your son/daughter values him- or herself. It’s never too early to talk to your child about your values. Your child needs to know right from wrong in how they treat people. If you teach your child well, they will recognize bad behavior when they see it; whether it’s to them or others. Teach your child that the standard is treating all people with respect.
4) Get the facts. Get as much information as you can from your child if they tell you – or you suspect – a bullying situation. Consider your child's behavior, conflict-management skills, and temperament. Remember to support your child even as you do additional research on the situation. Ask detailed questions about the incident(s): Who was involved? What exactly happened? Who else might have seen the situation? Dad, do not act before thinking at this point. Do not instruct your child to fight back.
5) Stay Calm: Upon hearing that your son or daughter may be encountering a bully, you will probably want to pounce on said bully. Remember, a bully is seeking to create fear and control. All experts agree that the most important thing to do is stay calm. A bully is seeking reaction. Do not give it. How you personally react to the news will shape your child’s reaction.
6) Teach Your Child to Stand: Confronting a bully may be your child’s only option, but they should not seek to harm someone physically or verbally. Teach your child to stand up for him or herself, and that it is okay to speak up when spoken to in a degrading way. Of course, there is a delicate balance between instigating a fight and being a wet blanket. The earlier your child learns this, the better.
7) Talk to the Teacher: It is vital that your child learn how to handle his or her own social situations. It’s simply and a part of maturing. But, teach your child that if the bullying turns to threats of violence or emotional harm, it’s time to tell the teacher.
Dad, do not try and straighten the behavior of another child on your own. Contact your child’s school and learn about the school policy and how to access available resources. Often teachers have the best grasp on the relationships between children in the classroom. Stay professional in your interactions with school staff, and be sure to emphasize you want to work with them to find a solution. Teachers, principals, and guidance counselors are available to help.
8) Involve the Parents/Guardian: Unless the bully is over 18, which would be dealt with on a completely different manner (and different blog post), the bully will typically have parents. In most cases, the bully’s parents/guardian will not know that their child is the class bully, so it is generally a good strategy to get them involved. Keep in mind they will probably be defensive at first, so be careful not to lose your cool and make matters worse.
9) Involve their Friends: There is definitely strength in numbers. Whether at recess, lunch or between classes, have your child plan to walk with friends. Often, bullies will not single you out when you are surrounded by supportive friends. On the flip side, your child may think they are among friends, but if those “friends” are also chiming into the bully’s behavior, help your child understand that those aren’t the type of friends he/she may want to keep. This may be a good time to encourage your child seek out new classmates as friends.
10) Prevent the Cycle. Help your child understand the situation by talking with them about why the bully acts the way he does. Empathize with your child but also constructively involve him or her in solving the problem. From kindergarten to high school, it is valuable that your child seeks supportive friends. Teaching your child appropriate social skills that build self-esteem will make them less likely targets. It's impossible to protect your child from any and all situations, but by being active and intentional, you can help your child navigate some situations.
For instance, practice scenarios while on the playground, during sibling conflicts, or even with situations you read in books and see on television. Make it a point to discuss with your child about exactly what happened in a book or movie and what the best response is in these situations. Whether the character does the wrong or right thing, the opportunity to discuss the event and use it as a teachable moment is there – seize it.
Finally, it is important for you to explain to your child that sometimes all that is necessary is avoidance. Bullies may give up if they don’t get attention. Above all, be sure you take the issue seriously and listen to your child. A child knowing that dad is supportive can give a child confidence. Sometimes, confidence makes all the difference.What's the best advice you've heard for dealing with bullying?
photo credit: woodleywonderworks