Bullying. Unfortunately, it’s more common these days with the internet, social media, and texting so easily available to children of all ages. But research shows that parents can help prevent bullying by starting at home.
According to a review led by researchers at the University of Warwick in England and published in the April 25, 2013 issue of the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, children of parents who establish clear rules about behavior but are also supportive and emotionally warm are least likely to be bullied.
"Although parental involvement, support and high supervision decrease the chances of children being involved in bullying, for victims, overprotection presents an increased this risk," Dieter Wolke, one of the review authors, said in a university news release. "Children need support, but some parents try to buffer their children from all negative experiences, and in the process, they prevent their children from learning ways of dealing with bullies and make them more vulnerable." See the article here.
It’s also worth mentioning that in the home, a dads’ discipline style could be a type of bullying, and can predispose a child to accept a certain kind of behavior, or portray that behavior to others (be the bully). Since research shows dads play an important role in helping their children understand appropriate and healthy behavior, helping dads understand their own discipline style and how to use discipline as a teaching mechanism rather than a punishment mechanism is an important step.
Last year, NFI President Christopher Brown posted a blog titled, “9 Steps for Dads on How to Discipline Children” which explained a process for “no-drama” discipline involving two main steps:
In the blog, Chris explains that dads can implement no-drama discipline by first connecting with their child and, second, redirecting them. This process helps their child calm down, reflect, learn, and, if necessary, change their behavior to avoid making the same mistakes. You can read the full blog here.
I recently came across an excellent FREE guide titled, “How to Help Your Child Battle Bullies in the Schoolyard & in Cyberspace” that helps parents look for and address bullying with their children. Compiled by Dr. Lydia Jenkins, (a Ph.D. in Family Psychology from Capella University), this valuable resource covers key information around bullying statistics, warning signs, the difference between physical and cyber-bullying, and how parents can actually help their child. Being a great dad means looking out for your own children, and also others around you.
In the guide, the author shares several ways that dads (and moms!) can help their child cope with bullying:
- Use the parental control functions on your child’s smartphone or tablet to filter and limit what he sees on the web and how much time he spends on it. Don’t feel guilty about blocking inappropriate content on the web, and never feel bad about monitoring your child’s online activities. Remember, bullies aren’t the only things lurking on the web — there are also sexual predators and criminals, including sex traffickers who are eager to prey on impressionable children and teens.
- Restrict the amount of data (internet access) on your child’s smartphone. Some internet providers allow you to turn off texting during certain hours.
- Don’t be passive. Require your child share all of his passwords.
- Learn common internet acronyms (LOL, LMAO, etc.) and slang (“ship”). Kids nowadays use a wide range of code words so their parents don’t know what they are doing and saying. Knowing these acronyms and phrases will help you decipher what your child is saying to others.
- Know who your child is talking to online and in real life. Ask to meet or chat with your child’s real-life and social media friends. Periodically, look over your child’s smartphone and tablet contact list and check out any addresses of friends before you allow your child to spend time at their residences. Note: This means physically traveling to the friend’s home and meeting her parents before allowing your child to go to the home. Ask your child details about each person — i.e., name, location, state, age, hair color, race, hair type, height, weight, eye color, and any other distinguishable traits.
- Encourage your child to tell you or another adult if he is being bullied. It doesn’t matter if your child receives threats online or through digital or physical messages, reassure him that none of this is her fault and let her know you are always available to listen and help.
- Get to know your child better. Spend time with your child. Learn what your child likes and dislikes and try to develop a safe and acceptable relationship. It is possible that your child’s friends are encouraging her to bully other children, instead of vice-versa. The more you know about your child’s life, the easier it will be to recognize and address any problems.
- Teach your child about bullying — what it is and how it starts. Also, explain what to do if he is the target of bullying or if he is the bully. Talk about how hurtful bullying is and teach him ways to cope with it.
- Help your child manage stress. Specifically teach your child how to positively cope with bully-based stress: exercise with your child, spend time together observing the beauty and stillness of nature, do things your child likes to do, engage in hobbies that your child is interested in, take your pet to the park together for playtime and walks, watch your favorite sitcoms and/or movies together, play games like UNO, etc. This will help you and your child blow-off steam while bonding and having fun.
- Set specific behavior guidelines. Make sure your child fully understands what you expect of him at home and at school. It is common for children to believe they don’t need supervision, guidelines, rules or anything else, but they do. Children need boundaries to develop and thrive. When a parent doesn’t provide those boundaries for a child, it increases the risk of him becoming a bully or engaging in dangerous and unhealthy behavior.
Be sure to download “How to Help Your Child Battle Bullies in the Schoolyard & in Cyberspace” and share it with the parents you serve!