Helping Kids Deal with Bullies
Kids are often reluctant to tell adults about bullying because they are embarrassed and ashamed that this is happening to them, or they worried that their parents will be disappointed in or think less of them.
Bullying can be a real nightmare for kids. Bullying can show up in many forms:
• Teasing that turns hurtful, unkind and constant
• Name calling, spreading rumors or intentionally hurting someone’s feelings
• Shoving, pushing or actual assaults
• Stealing, causing property damage
• Posting mean or degrading messages or lies on social networking sites, chat rooms or via text
Kids who are bullied often do not want to discuss the situation with parents or other adults. You may notice differences in your child that you should pay attention to. Here are a few:
• Anxiety - not sleeping or eating well
• Decline in grades
• Lunch money vanishing
• No longer wanting to do things that usually enjoy
• Coming home repeatedly with unexplained bruises or cuts
• Avoiding certain situations like taking the school bus or participating in after school activities
• Coming up with new excuses not to school
If you suspect that your child might be the victim of bullying look for opportunities to discuss the issue. Teach your child that it is important to talk about bullying. Hopefully they will come to you but if they don’t open to you, make sure they know that they should share what is happening with them with a trusted adult, teacher, school counselor, grandparents or relative.
When your child comes to you saying that they have been the victim of bullying, remain calm. Fight the urge to jump into action and contain your anger. Listen and be fully engaged with your child and their story. Don’t interrupt or offer your opinion. Once they have finished ask them open ended questions that may help fill in any missing details.
It is imperative that you get a hold of your emotions before jumping in to fix the situation. We must model appropriate behavior for our children.
Three things that you can do regarding bullying:
1. Take bullying seriously. This is not a phase that your child is going through. Offer support to your child whether they are 6 or 16. This may be the most difficult issue that they have ever dealt with.
2. Consider enrolling your child into a martial arts program or a self-defense class. No, I am not suggesting that they learn to beat up the bully, but martial arts can build confidence in a child. Bullies rarely pick on a confident child – they almost always choose someone who is vulnerable or lacks confidence.
3. Teach your child how to respond to a bully. Teach them what they CAN do in order to give them back some power. They need confidence, assurance and direction.
Document any action that you take. Keep notes on what your child tells you and enter every event with dates. This documentation will make it easier to calmly explain the situation to school authorities or to file a legal complaint with police should the situation continue to escalate. I know you want to fix this for your child and that you want to put an immediate stop to the bullying. Depending on the seriousness of the case you may have to stop it immediately, in other cases your best action is to coach your child on how to handle a bully themselves.
Three things to teach your child:
1. Teach your child to be confident, and to ignore the bully's hurtful remarks. Explain that it is the bully's intent to use power over your child and that this is not acceptable. Tell your child that it is okay to ignore the remarks and walk away with their head held high. In most cases, once the bully realizes that they have no power over your child they will get bored and move on.
2. Explain to your child that they have the right not to be bullied, harassed or abused. Bullying can undermine their confidence and sense of well being, and if they don’t learn how to deal with it, later years can be plagued by physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence and even suicide. When bullied their self worth is challenged to the core and the earlier you can intervene and help them the better off they will be.
3. Give your children permission to protect themselves! It is dangerous to allow a child to think that someone else has power over them and that someone has the right to touch them, push them, harass them, bully them or violate them in any way. They need to know they have the right to stand up for themselves and live a full, happy life.
I realize that I have barely touched the surface of this issue. There are two things I want you to remember:
1. Bullying should be an on-going conversation
2. Give your child the confidence to stand up to a bully! Bullying is never okay!
Unfortunately, bullying does not end on the playground. To explore my programs that address workplace bullying, call me today at (623) 242-8797.