10 Things You Can Do To Help the Bullied and the Bullies.
In our previous post, If You're Not Worried about Bullying, You're Not Paying Attention, we discussed the issues surrounding bullying, and the wonderful things our school principles are doing to create an amazing learning environment and stop incidences of bullying. Almost everyone has a definition of a bully, and sometimes we catch our children speak or act out of character as either a victim, or a bully and sometimes, both.
Just the other day I had an incidence with my beautiful, sweet, often sensitive son, who thought, for whatever reason, it was okay to say, "Mom, you're fat, fatter than the cat." I quirked a brow and waited to see if he'd catch himself., He certainly didn't mean that, right? A giggle as he looked over at Dad and asked him "Right, Dad?" confirmed my fear that he did not realize the misstep that was made, and made me understand that my child may exhibit behavior I don't condone. I was mortified he thought it was okay to call someone fat or other things that are simply not okay. He had experienced these things himself.
Just last year, we had issues with some teasing, as my son adores My Little Ponies, sports a long ponytail like his dad and had to contend with those issues too. Bullying behaviors are hard, no matter which side of the coin you happen to be on at the moment. While schools manage the problems well, at home is where a lot of changes can be encouraged and worked toward, so here are 10 Things You Can Do to Help the Bullied and the Bullies.
1. Understand Bullying Behavior
Sometimes it can be hard to understand why one child feels the need to punch or call someone names, but it comes from somewhere. Kids Health has a wonderful article to help parents and guardians tackle this issue, starting with reasons for the behavior. One reason is insecurity, and bullying a child who seems "emotionally or physically weaker" provides a feeling of being in control. For others, it's the case of needing to learn how to deal with anger, hurt, frustration. This can leak down as perhaps smaller peers will continue the behavior which "can translate into control over children they perceive as weak."
2. Take Bullying Seriously
It is important that children understand that bullying will not be tolerated at home, in social settings, at school or anywhere else. Provide a system of discipline that works, if your child bullies. No matter the age there's something that can be effective. For a smaller or younger child, you can limit time with friends, for older children limiting social media, dock phone or computer privileges also work.
On the alternate side, if your child is the victim of bullying behavior, they may be verbal, and they may not be. PBS Parents lists some things to look for that include: school refusal, avoiding peer interactions, afraid of riding the bus and sudden changes in school performance. Look for these red flags, and also listen if your child is communicating frequent incidences at school when they are home.
3. Set an Example
We know that children often watch and mimic behaviors in others and use those experiences to model in their interactions. One of the very best things you can do is set a good example of what to do, instead make a point of noting, out loud, good things about people around you and be open when you are frustrated and demonstrate positive manners of coping with feelings. For example, go on a walk when you are upset, or color if you are frustrated.
4. Problem Solve with Your Child
PBS Parents notes that there are many solutions to help kids; some need to walk away, some have snappy comebacks, and some just need one buddy. "It's okay to have one close friend one buddy, to seek out at lunch and recess. Over time, more friendships will emerge as your child learns to trust other kids." This works both ways, a bully struggling with making meaningful connections can find someone to talk to and express themselves, learning in a healthy way how to communicate.
5. Nurture your child's self-esteem
One of the best things we can do for our children is educate our children about bullying and bullies. Great! Schools suggests that teaching children to walk confidently, create strong personal grooming and social skills can all help with increasing self esteem. Another crucial aspect is helping your child recognize his or her talents an attributes. This helps children learn to assert themselves in a positive manner.
6. Eat Dinner Together
Time Magazine notes that in a recent study, eating dinner with family "can serve as a release for young people and that they benefit from communicating their problems and frequently interacting with their family." This helps all children, as aggressors get a chance to voice problems, and for children that are experiencing bullying a chance to communicate. This method has also proven effective for counteracting cyber-bullying.
7. Communicate with your child's school
Parental involvement in incidences helps both sides of the conflict. Dr Gail Gross states that "parents should maintain regular communication via email, phone calls and in-person conferences with our child's teachers and guidance counselors." This goes for either side, the bullied or the bully, and can lead to peaceful resolution of the issue. Great Schools notes that the result of reducing bullying is an improved environment for all students.
8. Identify a touchstone
PBS defines a touch stone as a "trusted person" who a child can go to if they are upset or if bullying is continuing. This provides children a safe place to go in order to sort through emotions and feelings.
9. Remember, a bully is a child too.
A child who bullies is still a child. There are reasons for the behavior and it is important as adults to give them just as much guidance and adults. Dr Gross notes that, "bullies may not have healthy social behaviors, empathy, or coping skills." Early intervention is vital to helping these children to overcome difficulties and build proper social behaviors.
10. Don't be afraid to ask for help
If the situation is beyond your skills, or you need help don't be afraid to get help. Seek counseling. Bullied children may need to work through incidents with a trusted counselor in order to overcome adversity. In addition, children who bully may need help to control their anger or deal with whatever the root is of the aggression.
Bullying is a serious issue that so many of us have experienced in one way or another. Truly my son calling me fat was more ridiculous than serious, but it doesn't mean I should ignore the behavior. As he grows, he may become more likely to say that to a girl who struggles with self-image and could cause more harm than he realizes. As a parent, as an adult, I try to model correct behavior, but even I need to remember that there is more than one way to tackle the problem. I hope that this advice helps you, no matter which side you are struggling with now.