If your child indicates he or she is being bullied, assure your child that it was the right choice to tell you. Deal with the situation in a responsible and confidential way. Parents can help their children learn ways to handle their anger or frustration and how to resolve conflict in nonaggressive ways.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, maintain open communication and stay informed about your child’s life. Your child may be a victim of bullying if your child tries to avoid going to school, loses interest in schoolwork or begins to perform poorly, or displays unusual changes in temperament.
Be familiar with technology and set boundaries for use. Educate your child on appropriate online behavior and supervise his/her activities online. Set up proper filters and place computers in public areas. If bullying occurs, document all messages and activities and block the bully from further contact. Contact the police when physical threats are made or other aggressive messages are sent.
Teach Your Kids the Difference Between
Bullying and Teasing
Bullying is all about power. Two kids teasing each other might be bad behavior, but it’s not necessarily bullying unless one tries to take power over the other. This could be physical power, but it could also be verbal or social power, even social-media power. So teach your kids the national definition of bullying from StopBullying.gov: Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.
Model How to Stay Calm Under Pressure
As a parent or teacher, how do you initially react to stress and anxiety? Do you fly off the handle and yell at your kids? The biggest bullyproof secret I’ve ever learned is to find healthy ways of dealing with stress and anxiety. I’ll go for a walk, listen to some music, or give myself a five-minute break, so I can ultimately calm down and talk it out rationally. When we model self-control to our kids, it teaches them how to stay under control… even when other people go out of control (ie: bullying). When kids refuse to give the bully a negative reaction (which is exactly what they’re looking for), then the bully will simply move on to an easier target. It’s a small change, but it makes a huge difference. We want to teach kids to stay calm when they are being bullied if the react and freak out it feeds the bully.
Empower Them to Speak Up to Bullying
If bullying is all about taking power, then the solution needs to be
about keeping your power. As adults, we need to empower kids
to speak up or stand up in a way that fits with their personality.
The reality is: if a kid’s only solution is to “Run and tell on the
bullies” every single time, then it’s not a very empowering solution.
And if we’re not careful, we can accidentally communicate that
they’re not powerful enough to speak up (when many times they
are). Work with your child and roleplay some bullying situations
and responses. Download our bullying resources for help and scripts to use if you are being bullied and cyberbullied.
References: (1) National Association of School Psychologists, Bullies and Victims: Information for Parents (PDF) (2) American Psychological Association, Bullying: What Parents, Teachers Can Do to Stop It (3) Principal Leadership, September 2008; Cyberbullying Content contributed in part by Erica Maniago, Ph.D.