What you should teach your child about bullying

Posted: August 7, 2019 in General, Tutorials
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bullyingFrom insults hurled on the playground to nasty rumors spread on social media, bullying continues to be a pervasive issue that seems to grow worse as time goes on.  Many layers add to the difficulty in addressing it: a child too afraid to report it, a teacher failing to take reports seriously, parents not knowing what to do,  these can result in severe consequences down the line.

Below is a guide for parents to identify, address, and solve issues surrounding bullying.

What is bullying?

The cultural definition of bullying has certainly evolved over the years. There used to be a time when all forms of bullying fell under one singular umbrella of taunting that typically led to a fight on a playground.  With years of extensive research, we now understand bullying as a multi-pronged issue affecting millions of children across the world every day.

The American Psychological Association defines bullying as a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort.

Additionally, the US government says the two basic tenets of bullying is imbalance and repetition: ‘Kids who bully use their power, such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity to control or harm others,’ as detailed on StopBullying.gov.

‘Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.’

Bullying comes in many forms 

It can be very easy to miss the signs of bullying if you don’t know what to look for. While bullying happens in a multitude of ways, it can usually boil down to four basic formats:

1. Verbal bullying is when a child is attacked with words from a peer on the basis of their physical appearance, race, religion or economic status.

2. Physical bullying is when a child is harmed by way of shoving, pushing, punching, kicking, spitting, or any other violent physical motion.

3. Relational bullying thrives on pitting kids against one another or leaving one out of the social circle.

4. Cyberbullying takes place as insults, rumors, or slander online via social networks, forums, emails, text messages, or other websites.

Parents need to provide a listening ear

 Parents need to make themselves both available and receptive to any traumatic experiences their children could potentially face no matter how small it may seem on the surface.

To confirm that bullying is actually taking place, parents should be able to asked themselves a few questions, according to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center:

1: Does your child feel (emotionally or physically) hurt by another child’s behavior?

2. Has your child been the target of negative behavior more than once?

3. Does your child want the behavior to stop?

4. Is your child unable to make the behavior stop on their own?

Any yes answers usually point to signs of bullying.

The consequences of unaddressed bullying

 It’s crucial to take action as soon as your child shows signs of being bullied. That could mean having a sit-down with the other student’s parent or just alerting the school administration about what’s going on to prevent further harm.

Letting it go unaddressed could result in a spiral of withdrawal or depression, or worse — physical harm. As the parent, it is your job to provide the best means of protection and that often starts with being aware of that’s going on.

How to educate your child on bullying

Make sure your child knows that they are not at fault if they are ever bullied. It’s also important to give your child the room when necessary to handle situations as they see fit. Intervening before it’s actually called for can bring about even more bullying.

It is key to empower them with the tools to speak up to an authoritative figure if they ever feel threatened and also to speak up for themselves if they are able to advocate in the situation.

Maintaining a consistent open dialogue where nothing is off-limits will give your child the confidence to come forward.

Use the right language

Children these days tend not to use the term bully or bullying, and it is advised to use the correct terminology when discussing this with them, which could be anything from ‘drama’ and ‘beef’ to ‘talking smack’.

Robert Faris, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, told Live Science: ‘It would be a mistake to dive right in and ask about being bullied. In fact, I wouldn’t even use that term, because kids don’t use that term.

‘It implies a powerlessness that he or she may not want to acknowledge. Other words don’t necessarily have that connotation.’

Encourage your child to seek help

Most parents like to think of themselves as safe havens whenever their kids get into trouble, but sometimes relying on an outside source is most effective. Besides, some children aren’t comfortable sharing every detail of their personal life with their parents.

This can open up the door to counseling where you can take your child to speak to a professional that is well-versed in these types of challenges. What’s more, a licensed counselor would be able to detect and treat any underlying symptoms of depression that may come after experiencing bullying.

Before taking the step to counseling, your child could also speak with an older family member they see as a friend or any adult they feel they can freely confide in without consequences. Talking can give them the confidence to address the issues head-on and to take action as needed.

Talking about cyberbullying

In this digital world that we live in, cyberbullying is one of those things that we can’t get away from. Children are especially at the mercy of interactions online through social networks such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. Cruel things are often shared on these accounts and bullying can take place in the comment sections if two or more parties have a difference of opinion.

It’s important to let your child know that social media is not real life and they should understand that their personal character is all that really matters.

Kids frequently fall victim to the cycle of comparing their lives to other people’s lives on social media and this can affect their mental health. As a parent, it is your job to share a valuable perspective about what really matters.

What to do if your child is the bully

This sounds like the unthinkable, but it’s probable that your child can actually be the bullying counterpart. Usually, when this happens there is some unaddressed issue that is going on and bullying is their way to lash out against the problem.

The best way to address this issue is to open a dialogue and speak to them often. A parent might also want to be in touch with the school administration and see if there is anything they might be able to do to amend the situation.

Keep tabs on the situation to see if anything changes. Maybe your child is in need of positive activity to take part in or even disciplinary action such as a punishment of no TV for a few weeks. Do whatever is necessary to drill the message home that bullying is unacceptable.


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