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Parenting Tips & Tricks

“How to Handle Bullies”

Gone are the days where if a child bullies your kid you can send them back to school the next day armed with your approval and the knowledge of how to throw a good right hook. Granted, when a child is being bullied it takes a great deal of courage for them to tell you about it, so handling it themselves is a lot of pressure to put on your child, unfair to expect of them, and can lead to them feeling even more isolated. They came to you for help, so let’s deal with this.

It seems like every school is stuck between getting sued and not doing enough. It’s absolutely frustrating for parents! They talk a big game when it comes to their bullying policies, but where is the action? Kids are taught to “tell” on bullies yet most times the issue is just brushed to the side and ignored. Bullying is serious business and deserves complete attention by administrators. Bullying can cause children to fear moments of their school day, act out at home, and their grades can slip. Bullied children can become depressed, have low self esteem, health problems, and even start having suicidal thoughts. It’s important to take swift and appropriate action before it’s too late.

Our children aren’t always so quick to tell us that they are being bullied either. We might have to read the signs of torn clothing, bumps and bruises, depression, avoidance, and anger. Embarrassment and shame can lead them to act out negatively at home and no small amount of prodding can get the truth out. So we have to be aware and active instead of being quick to punish them for their negative behavior, or they really start to feel resentment towards the world they are in. Consider yourself lucky if your child has come to you with this information, now it’s up to you to be their advocate.

When a child is being bullied it’s important that we take it seriously. Though as parents we know it can be a part of growing up, to the child being bullied it can feel like the end of the world. We are never “too busy” to protect our children. Isn’t it always the sweet ones, the sensitive ones, and the creative types that these bullies prey on? Kids can sense children that are “different” like a shark to blood and that is when the bullying starts. We can’t let our children lose their spark, their uniqueness, their personality over a bully!

There is a thin line between playground banter and harmless name-calling and serious torment from their peers. If you do not think it is an urgent matter, think back to a time when you were bullied in school. I am sure you immediately remembered an instance where you felt isolated, embarrassed, and alone at the hands of a peer. Now snap back to reality, remember that as an adult, you still have a clear recollection of this experience and how painful it was. It has stuck with you all these years and what a negative impact!

It is hard to say what’s worse, if it is even fair to say that one is worse than the other, when it comes to emotional or physical bullying. As a parent my blood boils when I hear that another student was calling my child names, or put their hands on her. Of course I have to go through the appropriate channels as well. First, I can let my child know that I have her back in every situation. Once I find out what is happening, I have to take her corner and be ready to go up to bat no matter what. I won’t let her feel alone or that her concerns are not taken seriously. Teachers and administration might shrug the matter off but not when “Papa bear” finds out about it.

When my daughter was at the mercy of some bullies I assured her that I would handle it. I put my own anger and ego aside and tried to compose myself as I wrote a firm, yet appropriate letter to the school administration. This is the first step, to contact their teachers. I documented experiences, the scenarios that happened and a picture of a bruise she had from this bully. I expected it to be addressed swiftly due to the physical nature, and when it wasn’t, I was there the very next day prepared to talk to administration face to face.

Now, I was a kid once as well. I remember boys chasing girls around the playground and vice versa. Not once however, did it cross my mind to pick out the differences that a child has and emotionally humiliate them, or physically assault them. We were chasing girls because we liked them, not because we wanted to make them cry.

This all brings me to my final point. Bullying might be coming from home and we don’t know it. These children learn by example how to hurt others somewhere. Are these children taught at home to respect others, themselves, women? What lapse in parental guidance is there where they think that putting their hands on another is acceptable? Especially weaker children. Are their male examples in their life teaching them to uplift and protect their brothers and sisters, or showing them how to tease them and break them down? This is a call to action for everyone involved. This is an opportunity for us to teach our children about confidence, standing up for themselves, and making sure our children are learning to build up their peers and not break them down. That’s true strength. Of course we might not know what side of the fence our children are on, so it is a great opportunity to talk to them about bullies, if they have ever been a bully, or if they are being bullied themselves.

I used to be the type of person that would say if I ever had a son that was bullied I would tell them to “toughen up and handle business.” As the father to girls, my viewpoint has changed. No matter if you have sons or daughters, these little people have feelings and emotions and “toughening up” and facing a violent bully is not their job if they don’t want to wear that hat. Being confident and standing up for yourself is a lot different than enduring abuse and lashing out violently. The message I want my daughter to know is that she does not have to tolerate violence on any level, from anyone and that it will be handled in an adult manner. The message starts young and it is one we have to drive home to our children for when they don’t come to us, and for when they are adults themselves.

One in seven students are a victim of bullying at school. One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. I am starting my daughter out young, letting her know she should never tolerate that shit. So for now, we are trying to work the right channels, address the problem with the administration and hopefully get things handled. For the future however, we are still going to work on that right hook.

Tips to handle bullying;

Ask your child how their day went everyday and give them an example of a loving, safe and bully-free home. Be aware of signs of bullying. Not all children will share this information with you due to embarrassment. If they do share, you want them to always share, so take it seriously!

Don’t tell your kid to ignore it, or that they must have provoked it. Listen attentively and take their concerns seriously. Bullying reaches far beyond that spectrum and picks on people for their differences.

Talk to your child’s teacher about it instead of confronting the bully’s parents. If the teacher doesn’t act to stop the bullying, talk to the principal. If the principal doesn’t take it seriously talk to the school board, or even the police.

Document everything. Write down dates, names and incidents regarding the bullying. Take pictures of any physical assaults, and have a clear and concise timeline of the bullying, your steps to correct it and the response from the school.

Most resources with tell you to teach your child nonviolent ways to deal with bullies, like walking away, playing with other friends, or talking it out. Fair advice, but does that really work? Not usually. I told my daughter to form a wolf pack. Stay tight with her friends so she can’t get singled out and attacked. Strength in numbers can work and it worked for me as a kid,to a point. Show your child how to assert themselves and how to yell “no!”, tell them to grab an adult, and to demand they take action, teach them a judo throw, or how to run. It’s up to them how they want to handle it when you aren’t around. Support their decision.

Help your child act with self-confidence. With him or her, practice walking upright, looking people in the eye, and speaking clearly. Show them their worth and assure them of their strength as a person. Being bullied doesn’t make them weak, and it takes a great deal of strength to endure it.

Don’t encourage your child to fight, but go ahead, give them permission to defend themselves if they so choose. This goes against all advice online, as fighting could lead to them getting seriously hurt, getting in trouble, or start more serious problems with the bully. However sometimes their fear of getting in trouble holds them back from standing up to their bully and defending themselves from violence. This should be a last resort, but a resort nonetheless. We aren’t raising victims, and we are setting the stage for future victimization if we don’t allow these situations to be appropriately addressed,no matter what the schools policy is. Assure your child you have their back, but don’t pressure them to stand up to the bully if they aren’t comfortable with it.

Involve your child in activities outside of school. Although a karate class seems like the obvious choice, it’s just not for everyone. Anything that boosts their self esteem is good here. This way they can make friends in a different social circle.

Be your child’s strongest advocate. Even if you worry about looking like you are an-over concerned nut job to the school, you don’t want to look like an under-concerned parent to your child. Just keep in mind you are doing this to protect your child. That’s what counts. It’s your job to protect them and be their biggest advocate. It is not your job to fear making waves at school. How can your child stand up to future bullies if you won’t stand up for them now?

Good luck and hope this helps. This can be a heartbreaking time, so here’s to getting it handled!

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