Bullying – Five Things to Know
No parent wants to learn that their child is being bullied. No longer just playground harassment, bullying has moved into the twenty-first century with scare tactics on social media websites, text messages, and emails. While we may not be able to prevent our children from getting bullied, how do we help them when they are? These five tips are necessary to stop the bullying and help your child stay safe.
1. Tell a Grown-up
Many kids who are being bullied will be reluctant to tell anyone about it. They fear retaliation or an increase in attacks, so they keep quiet. However, telling a trusted grown-up is imperative in getting the bullying to stop. A child usually cannot stop the bullying alone and needs the help of a grown-up. A trusted grown-up can be a parent, relative, friend or teacher. The bully is going to need help too, and only with an adult involved can this be accomplished. Children will feel secure knowing that a trusted adult will advocate in their defense.
2. Develop Personal Power
A child with strong self-esteem is less likely to be intimidated by a bully. Find a few interests that your child can be successful at, rather than a whole lot of activities that leave him feeling scattered. Sports, drama, art, volunteer opportunities, church or educational activities are all good options. The better your child feels about herself, the easier it will be for her to deal with a bully who aims to destroy her self-worth. In addition, having one or two activities outside of school is a good way for children to develop a larger group of friends, unrelated to those they see every day at school. A wider peer circle means more friendships and stronger self-esteem.
3. Teach Assertive Communication
Bullies are aggressive and hurtful. A child who can respond to such attacks in an assertive manner, as opposed to “fighting” back, will be more successful in stopping the bullying. Remaining calm and cool can defuse the situation. Teach your child to respond to a bully by first validating the bully’s feelings, then stating his or her own feelings, and finally, requesting the bully to change their behavior. Say something like, “I understand you don’t like my clothes and it hurts my feelings when you say mean things. I’d like it if we could work something out so that we can be friends.” While this approach might not work on a bully who is being violent, it could lead to a compromise in a jealousy-type situation.
4. You Don’t Deserve to be Picked On
Hard as it may be to believe, some children feel they must deserve the treatment they receive from the bully. If they are being picked on, then surely they did something to justify it. Tell your child it is not his fault that he is being bullied. It is the bully’s fault only and all bullying is wrong. You may need to tell your child this repeatedly before he believes it. Being bullied will make your child sad, angry, lonely and scared. Having a caring parent remind him that the bully is the one with the problem, and that he or she needs help, can alleviate feelings of despair.
5. Know When to Seek Professional Help
Children who have been bullied are going to feel depressed and isolated. Being shut off from their peer social group may cause loneliness and anxiety. They may act out aggressively, change eating behaviors, or fail to do well in school. Start by visiting with the school counselor, your child’s doctor or clergy. Finding a reputable therapist for professional treatment may be necessary as well.