Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. From the playground to all corners of social media, from toddlerhood to old age, bullying is difficult part of human nature to escape.
For some it is a minor childhood incident; for others, it can be deeply painful and, even, fatal. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to be prepared to deal with bullying in the life of your child – whether they are the bully or the bullied, whether it’s happened already or is to come.
First, let’s define bullying. Bullying is when a person mistreats another person (seemingly inferior or vulnerable in some way) in order to feel better about an insecurity or low self-worth. It always starts with the bully needing to feel better about him or herself in some way.
Bullying is not the same as having a conflict with friends. It is a repeated behavior that requires intervention.
Is your child being bullied?
It’s common for parents to not know about the bullying their child is experiencing. Some children are ashamed of being bullied and will not say anything, even if you ask. So what signs can you look for? According to experts in the field, look for:
- a change in your child’s eating or sleeping behaviors
- a sudden dislike of school, activities, or social situations
- a child who often feels sick
Keep an open dialogue. You know your child best. Do they respond better to direct questions or open-ended questions? Ask them the appropriate questions to gauge how things are going at school and with their peers. Examples include:
- Do kids get picked on at your school? Does anyone pick on you?
- Is there anyone you don’t like at school?
- What was your favorite part of today? What was your least favorite part?
- What’s it like riding the bus?
- What are the kids in your classes like?
Another great idea is to volunteer at their school or activities to see first-hand how they interact with other kids.
Finally, make sure you know what apps or social media platforms they have access to on their mobile devices.
If you think your child is being bullied
- Gather as many details as you can and then report these (with your child’s permission) to those in a place of power (school administrators, teachers, coaches). Nothing will change if no one knows things need to change.
- Empathize with your child. Give as much comfort as they need, and let them know that what the bully is doing is not okay.
- Discuss ways to react to bullying. Whether that’s preparing a response, or knowing when to walk away and tell a grown-up.
- Encourage friendships. According to Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a leading expert on the topic, children with friends or in groups are less likely to be bullied.
- If the bullying is severe, consider removing your child from the situation if possible.
- Seek counseling if needed.
There are tons of ideas out there on how to deal with the bully. Explore them, and figure out what works best for your child’s situation.
No matter what, make sure to take bullying seriously. Find ways to nip the situation in the bud, and allow your child to flourish.