Mental abuse and bullying such as name calling, cruel mocking, picking on children who are unable to run fast or defend themselves, picking on children who are otherwise considered ‘different’ and physical bullying happen every day at classrooms and playgrounds. There’s always the chance that your child could be bullied when he enters preschool or mainstream school and if he’s not, well there’s a good chance that he might witness such occurrences.
There have many times when my son returns home after school and relate to me incidents that happen in school. Once it was about a group of boys who had been throwing bottles during recess at one particular boy. Another time it was about how a boy in their class had pulled another by the t-shirt and threatened to knock him down. Sadly, these are all very common occurrences. If it’s not physical threats, then it’s verbal ones. You would have your share of stories that you have heard or lived through yourself. Either way, bullying is a serious issue, one that can have detrimental effects on a growing child. Bullying is a very big problem and though schools do try to help out, it’s all very limited. Teachers and prefects are not able to constantly have children under their care near them and thus there are times when kids get picked on. Times like recess and bus rides can turn into times that your child dreads if this is the time your child is being bullied. Its not just the emotional scars that parents need to dread about bullying, there are cases known when bullies have taken it to levels where someone was seriously get hurt.
If you have a child who is being bullied, it’s a very trying time. The very thought that there is another human being (small or not!) hurting your child is very uncomfortable. You obviously want to do everything you can to change the situation. Dealing with the situation the correct way can immensely help your child deal with it and come out of it.
Initial Steps to Dealing with Bullying:
- Listen to your child always! Communication is key, so keep talking and asking questions about your child’s time away from home. There are some children who would bring up the subject of being bullied by themselves and ask for solutions. Then there are the ones who will shut down and want to deal with it themselves or believe that parents will not or not ‘know’ how to help out. Watch out for changes in behaviour and ask direct questions like – ‘Are you being bullied?’ ‘Is there anyone picking on you at school?.
- Take note of bruises or other cues like if your child is asking you for extra lunch money. These all maybe signs of your child being bullied.
- Let your kids know that if they’re being bullied or harassed (or see it happening to someone else) that it’s important to talk to someone about it, whether it’s you, another adult (a teacher, school counselor, or family friend), or a sibling. Always be there to discuss such instances. If your child is talking about another child being bullied, explain to him why bullies are bullies and that if he was ever to be bullied that he needs to talk to his family about it.
- Once you have spoken to your child, document details of bullying occurrences privately when your child is not there.
- You can also schedule a meeting with the class teacher and or principal and keep them informed of what is happening. It’s always a good idea to let adults who are caregivers up to date with such information. You can also get a wider perspective of the situation of the bully.
How to Prepare Your Child to Stand Up to the Bully
- The sad part of being bullied is that often the bully is physically stronger. If that is the case, ask your child to try playing or hanging out in another area. Basically avoid the person who is bullying.
- Sometimes though this not possible, the next best thing is to “Buddy up”. Hang out with a group of friends and try not to be alone where he can be picked on. These are all initial steps to dealing with, if for some reason these cannot be done or the bully is keeping a look out and actively searches and picks on your child, you’ll need to do the following.
- Act brave, walk away, and ignore the bully. You need to drill this into your child. Being brave (even though it is hard) is very important. Bullies get a kick out of bothering and tormenting someone whom he thinks is weak. If your child is strong and shows that he doesn’t care, he will soon get bored, look away and sadly look for another victim.
- Role play at home helps. Coaching your child with responses both verbal and mental is very helpful. Bullies tend to pick on people who they can get a reaction from; they choose kids who get upset and who take the teasing to heart. They also look for kids who won’t stand up for themselves, or who they can overpower. It’s important to teach your child how to react. Help your child to not ‘react’ to what the bully says and it will help a good deal.
- Build up your child’s self esteem – it might not seem completely relevant, but it is. Talk to your child and build up his self esteem. You can also start a swimming, football or karate class that will teach him self confidence and self esteem which will show in personality.
Being bullied is something that simply doesn’t change overnight. Your child being able to stand up to the bullying and tuning him out is not something that is easy for him to do and is a process, one that could possibly take weeks. Expect your child to be affected and troubled even after your initial conversation with him. Continue to talk to him, role play and ask him what is happening with the bully. Be very mindful of new developments. Document these developments as well. It is very important that you keep asking your child how things are and his feeling about what is happening. You need to help your child understand that there are always bullies, even as you get older, it’s how you deal with them by standing up to them not letting them have that power over you is what matters.