Now that school’s back in session, many of us who have personally watched out for our children’s safety over the summer, are left to keep our fingers crossed during the school year. This is particularly true with bullying – once seen as a “thing kids do”, but now recognized as a completely unacceptable behavior that’s expected to result in swift consequences for the perpetrator.
Search Institute has identified Safety as one of the 40 Developmental Assets. Research shows these are characteristics of healthy, caring, resilient kids. The more assets youth have, the more likely they’ll resist risky behaviors in the future.
There’s no perfect remedy for a bullying situation, and bullies themselves have significant needs as well. But the attention the issue has gained in the past few years has produced useful discussion about how to handle bullying behavior. Here are some ideas that may help your child.
STRENGTHEN SELF ESTEEM
While this particular buzz-word has been around for decades, few single attributes benefit a child like strong self-esteem does. This means that the efforts you make toward making your child a confident toddler, preschooler and elementary student, will pay dividends when they enter the middle school and bullying can become more of a crisis.
Bullies tend to prey on those weaker in spirit, so the more self-confidence a child possesses, the less likely they’ll become a target in the first place. Bullies are more likely to continue pursuing a child who doesn’t let the threats or put-downs “roll off”.
The victim needs to understand it’s the bully that has the problem.
TEACH SILENT BYSTANDERS TO HAVE A VOICE
If your child is one of the fortunate few who easily diverts the bully’s strike, he may be strong enough to stand up for those who have trouble doing so on their own. Simply standing next to a victim and facing the bully is sometimes all it takes to send them on their way.
A confident bystander can also go with the victim to get help from a responsible adult. The emotional support offered by one confident classmate can sometimes make the difference between a victim and a happy child.
EMPOWER YOUR CHILD – ARM HER RESPONSE
Sometimes ignoring verbal attacks is all it takes. If a bully doesn’t get a response to feed on, sometimes the behavior stops. If it doesn’t, the victim should assertively express that whatever the bully’s doing is not okay: “I want you to stop saying mean things to me.”
But children must report emotional attacks that don’t stop, or any physical attacks. Reporting is not tattling. Tattling is done to “get the other child in trouble.” Reporting is done to help yourself or another child to not get hurt physically or emotionally.
BE AN INVOLVED PARENT
When you witness bullying happening, model for your kids how to stop it. Address issues with children and their parents, on the playground, park or birthday parties. Be respectful, but direct and name the behavior: “Bullying isn’t tolerated here.”
Listen to your child’s concerns and take them seriously. You may only get one chance to hear the complaint before your child clams up from fear. Ask other parents in your network if their children have experienced bullying problems at school.
And seek help – assume educators are on your side and may not be aware your child is in danger. If the bullying is happening at recess or on the bus, your principal will want to know about this and intervene swiftly and sternly. If the bullying is occurring elsewhere, find out who is supervising the activity — a coach, a teacher, activity advisor? Also, your school counselor is trained — or can seek training — to deal with bullies and victims. He or she would want to help.
No one deserves to be treated this way. And with the proper tools, high expectations, and swift consequences, they won’t.
For more information on how to help your child, try these articles:
What have you done to address bullying behavior?
Thanks for joining in to build assets in your kids! I look forward to seeing you again next month for Positively Speaking.
Kelly Curtis is a Wisconsin school counselor and author of Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things. To read more about Kelly, please visit her Weblog, Pass the Torch or follow her on Twitter.