Statistics show that one out of every four school children in the United States has been bullied. Prolonged and unchecked, bullying can contribute to depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems for the victim. In extreme cases, bullying can lead to thoughts of suicide.
For a parent trying to help their child deal with bullies, it’s important to get the facts when deciding the best course of action.
What Is Bullying?
Bullying is defined as aggressive behavior between children. This behavior has two distinguishing features:
- The behaviors happen repeatedly.
- Threats, teasing, spreading rumors, and exclusion are common tactics bullies use to assert their power over victims.
The aggressor uses their power to control another child. Types of bullying include verbal, physical, and cyber-bullying.
Peer conflict is a natural part of child development and should not be confused with bullying. Bullying is not:
- An isolated act of aggression or confrontation.
- A child who doesn’t like you.
- Accidents, forgetfulness, or clumsiness.
- The desire to control the rules of cooperative play.
What Can a Parent Do?
Our parental instincts tell us to use whatever power we have to protect our offspring. But instead of immediately calling a meeting of every teacher, parent, and school administrator involved, use the opportunity to teach your child some important life skills.
- Make a list of problematic behaviors used by the bullies. Organize the list into three categories: Ignore, Confront, and Get Help. Things like name-calling or funny looks can be ignored with enough willpower. Actions like touching or other invasions of personal space can be confronted with a firm declaration of their boundaries (ex. Don’t touch my hair.). Potentially harmful behavior like pushing or hitting requires adult intervention.
- Have your child make a list of people at school who will help if problems with bullies occur. Your child’s teacher, a counselor, or other favorite staff members will gladly be the on-site safe haven for your little one.
- If attempts to stop the aggressive behaviors don’t work, it’s time to talk to school officials. Schedule a meeting with the school principal. Bring your child’s lists. This will help you come up with a strategy for confronting the issue.
What Can a Child Do?
Some simple self-defense techniques can help your child protect themselves if confronted by bullies.
- Teasing has less effect on confident people. Teach your child to appreciate their unique strengths.
- Speak to bullies in a calm yet strong voice. Clearly state your boundaries and ask that they be respected.
- If the conflict becomes physical, instruct your child to run away. If they can’t get away, make enough noise to attract the attention of others nearby.
- Tell them to never be afraid to get help. Shame and fear are powerful emotions verbally abusive bullies use to control their victims.
Challenge bullies with boundaries, self-respect, and a strong support system to protect your child’s emotional health.