Stop Bullying in Its Tracks

Monday, September 5, 2016

signs-of-bullyngThe back-to-school season brings big changes for young children. For many, it’s a chance to learn independence, experience new things, and make new friends. Unfortunately for some, going to school can be a dreaded and frightening time.

Seventy-seven percent of children admit to being bullied in some way. Talking to your child about the dangers of bullying is essential to teaching them respect for others, and as well as what to do if they become victims.

What is bullying?

Bullying is an assertion of control or power over an individual in an attempt to harm another. It can be physical and include punching or hitting; emotional, which includes name-calling and teasing; or social, which includes isolating an individual or spreading rumours.

With the prevalence of technology and social media, cyber-bullying can happen anywhere at any time—even in a child’s own bedroom.

Bullying has a lifelong impact on victims. It can cause mental and physical anguish, low self-esteem and self-worth, and can leave a victim with feelings of insecurity and anxiety long after the bullying has stopped. That’s why it’s so important to talk with your children at an early age.

How to talk to your kids about bullying

Going to school can be an emotional time, especially for young children. There are many firsts that they experience, and these situations can be both scary and exciting. While it’s important to talk to your child about the dangers of bullying, you don’t want to increase your child’s anxiety and fear surrounding the topic. Here are some ways to approach the subject in a gentle, sensitive manner:

  • If your child is worried about the upcoming year, consider making a scrapbook for the year to track your child’s accomplishments and other “firsts” and provide something to look forward to.
  • Role play and act out different situations with your child to teach him or her how to respond to bullying in a safe environment.
  • If a bullying situation comes up when watching a movie or reading a book, use it as an opportunity to ask your child what he or she would do in a similar situation and then discuss further.
  • There are many great children’s books that offer a variety of ways for children to deal with bullying such as: Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, The Little Rose, Brundibar, Just Kidding, The Juice Box Bully and My Secret Bully.

If your child is being bullied

There are several warning signs that indicate a child is being bullied, such as:

  • Acting anxious, angry or depressed, or exhibiting suicidal behaviours
  • Not eating, sleeping or participating in activities he or she once enjoyed
  • Physical symptoms like cuts and bruises, or headaches and stomach aches
  • Avoiding school, social situations and even friends

If your child is being bullied, consider taking the following actions:

  • Tell your child to buddy up with a friend on the bus, in hallways, and at recess so the bully will not find your child alone
  • Encourage friendships with positive role models and support extra-curricular activities that build self-esteem
  • Brainstorm constructive things your child can say to the bully the next time it happens
  • Obtain specific details from your child such as who did the bullying, when and where it happened, and what day and time. Then, contact your child’s principal and teachers so that they can monitor the situation
  • Arrange for your child to talk to a school counsellor
  • Be aware of anti-bullying legislation. If the bullying continues or your child is in danger because of it, contact local authorities

Do not tell your child to ignore it. Bullies want an audience. A bully will continue to torment his or her silent victim because they perceive the silence as submission to his or her bullying.

If your child witnesses bullying

Tell your child to get help from a teacher or trusted adult right away if he or she witnesses bullying. Explain that cheering a bully on is wrong, and only worsens the situation. Encourage your child to include children who are bullied in his or her playtime activities and to foster caring relationships with those who are victims.

If your child is the bully

It can be very hard to admit that your child is a bully. The best thing you can do is to accept it and then take steps to correct the behaviour as early as possible. Here are some signs that your child could be bullying others:

  • Your child acts out aggressively, either physically or verbally
  • Teachers or the principal express concern about your child’s behaviour
  • Your child has money or new belongings that he or she did not receive at home
  • Your child associates with friends and peers who bully others

If you know that your child bullies others, take these steps immediately:

  • Tell your child that his or her actions are unacceptable and that they cause harm to others
  • Set boundaries and rules in your home for your child’s behaviour. Use non-physical penalties such as loss of computer time or cell-phone use if rules are broken
  • Reward and praise good behaviour and rule-following
  • Spend time with your child and get to know who his or her friends are. Monitor where your child spends his or her time
  • Notify teachers and the principal at your child’s school so they can keep an eye on his or her behaviour
  • Take your child to a school counsellor or family counsellor if necessary
  • Encourage your child’s personal development and progress

Bullying is a serious problem that can leave lasting scars, both physically and mentally. When parents open the lines of communication and equip their children with the right skills to stand up to bullying, they will be less afraid of this potential threat and more willing to talk to you should a problem arise. With early intervention, perhaps you can stop bullying before it has a chance to make its ugly mark.

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