What Parents Can Do About It
Create healthy anti-bullying habits early. Teach your child what to do – kindness, empathy, fair play, and turn-taking are critical skills for good peer relations. Children also need to learn how to say "no" firmly if they experience aggressive behavior. Bullying can take different forms:
- Physical: hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing, and taking personal belongings
- Verbal: insulting others appearance or abilities, teasing, name-calling, and making threats
- Emotional/Social: leaving kids out on purpose, spreading rumors, playing unwanted tricks
Coach your child about what to do if others are mean: tell an adult right away, tell the child who is bullying to "stop", walk away, and find someone else to play with. Your child needs to hear from you explicitly that it is not normal, OK, or tolerable for them to bully, to be bullied, or to stand by and watch others be bullied. Bullying is defined a repeated, purposeful actions with the intent to harm another. Make sure they know it is important and safe for them to tell you about it and you will help. Work with your child to find positive ways to exert their personal power, status, and leadership at school.
Talk to and listen to your child every day. Spend a few minutes every day asking open ended questions about who your child spends their time with at school and in the neighborhood. If your child feels comfortable talking to you about their peers before they are involved in a bullying event, they’ll be much more likely to get you involved after. Explain the difference between tattling and telling. Tattling is when you report something just to get someone in trouble. Telling is when you report that you or someone else is in danger. Adults can discern between a "poor choice" and true bullying behavior that has defined criteria.
Be a good example of kindness and leadership. Your children learn a lot about power relationship from watching you. Children learn from what you do not necessarily what you say. Think about the impact when you get angry at a waiter, a sales clerk, another driver, or even your child. You have a great opportunity to model effective communication techniques in these situations.
Recognize symptoms that may indicate your child is being bullied. Since most children won’t tell you they’re being bullied, often because of fear of reprisals, it is important for you to recognize the symptoms. These include: unexplained reluctance to go to school, fearfulness or unexplained anxiety, sleep disturbances or nightmares, vague physical complaints (headaches / stomach aches), and belongings that are missing or come home ripped. Encourage your child to tell you, a teacher or another adult when they are having a problem. It’s important for them to let someone know early, before a situation escalates. If you suspect your child is being bullied, talk to your child’s teacher.
RES teaches formal lessons about bullying.