As a parent you have the power to help your children whether they are being bullied or victimizing others. When faced with bullying, children need the support from an adult they feel comfortable confiding in. As you may be unable to directly monitor the situation in your child's school, do not feel powerless- you can make a difference. You can be the support your child needs and the voice calling for change in your child's school.
Some general advice:
- Spend quality time with your child. Talk and listen to them.
- Be a positive role model and surround you child(ren) with other positive role models. Respect others and stand up for yourself when people don't respect you.
- Teach your child, preteen or teen not to be a bystander. Encourage your them to tell the bully to stop, to de-escalate the situation (where appropriate) or to walk away and get help from an adult. Teach your child that it is never appropriate to forward-along abusive content, escalate situations by responding "in-kind" to bullies, allow others to take videos/photos of personal moments or people in compromising situations.
- Help your child feel good about themselves in a healthy way. Encourage your child to set and reach goals.
- Use positive discipline and teach non-violence. Teach that using violence to solve problems or deal with anger only makes things worse.
- If you're worried about your child or yourself, seek help from school counselors, school support groups, private therapists or your family health-care provider.
For Parents of Bullies:
Parenting styles have a huge effect on children's behavior and how they learn to interact with others. An unstable home environment may prompt children to act out against others in school.
Things to Consider if You Suspect that Your Child is a Bully:
- Know the warning signs. Your child may be bullying others if they enjoy putting others down and don't seem to care about others feelings, make jokes about violent acts or enjoy violence, disrespect authority, disrespect people that are different from them, actively seek to gain power or control over others.
- It is important for children to have consistent, non-violent discipline that doesn't erode or undermine their self-worth. Having clear rules and consequences promotes self-control and responsibility. Do not use bullying as a form of discipline.
- Do not underestimate the negative effects that media can have on your child. Take an active role in assessing what your child views on television, movies, video games and the internet. Pay attention to violence, social messages, sexual messages and consequences. Set limits if necessary but regardless you should engage in discussions with your child about what they are viewing.
- Take time to participate in activities that you both enjoy. Your child will feel loved as you share experiences that are important to both of you.
- If your child has engaged in bullying behavior it is important to take time to discuss what has occurred. First, stay calm, while feeling angry or embarrassed is normal it is more productive to focus on changing your child's behavior. Ask your child why he or she is bullying others and respond to the root cause. Most importantly, make it clear that you think bullying is wrong and set clear, nonviolent consequences for future bullying behavior.
For Parents of Victims
Parents are often unaware that their child is being bullied; many children who are bullied keep it a secret, perhaps because they are afraid that telling will make matters worse. Parents need to take note of differences in their child's behavior that could signal that they are encountering social problems at school. Examples might include, seeming quiet or depressed, having poorly explained bruises/injuries, coming home with missing or damaged belongings, asking for more pocket money, loosing interest in school or doing poorly academically. It is a parent's responsibility to help their child overcome bullying in school once they are aware of the situation. Upon finding that your child is a victim it is essential to remain calm and maintain open dialogue with your child and the school. It is normal to feel angry or scared but handling the situation in a responsible manner will set a good example for your child. Your child will appreciate that you are their ally, providing much needed support in a time where they feel alone. Tell your child that nobody deserves to be bullied. Ask you child why the think they are being bullied and listen to what they respond with. Think of peaceful solutions together. Some possible solutions are:
- Stick with a supportive group of peers, avoid being alone in "target" areas like locker rooms, restrooms or empty classrooms and avoid places where the bully hangs out
- Not to fight back or seek revenge
- To be assertive and confident, use body language to show lack of feer
- Agree with the bully. Say "You're right." then walk away.
- Tell the bully to stop or walk away and get help from an adult
- Report all bullying incidents
For more information visit The Committee for Children, an organization that outlines tips for parents on how to help your child combat bullying.
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Prevent Child Abuse America