As parents, we work hard every day to teach our children to be kind, empathetic, and respectful of others. Unfortunately, we can’t always be there to navigate their every social interaction.
Bullying is something present in almost any situation with kids and can start as early as kindergarten. Bullying can range from teasing, to threats, to physical violence. There are a number of reasons that children bully, which we will discuss in a later blog post. For now, let’s take a look at the forms that bullying can take.
Types of Bullying
- Verbal: Using insults, name calling, or teasing to make a child feel sad or scared.
- Physical: Using their body to pinch, trip, push, chase, or fight a child.
- Gestures: Making threatening facial expressions or gestures with their body.
- Exclusion: Intentionally leaving a child out of an activity.
- Extortion: Demanding lunch items, toys or schoolwork from a child.
Is Your Child A Target of Bullying?
Even on their best days, it’s hard for some kids to talk about their day. Ask “How was school today?” and you’re likely to get a “Good.” A child who is being bullied may be even more likely to keep quiet about what’s going on at school or in an after-school club. They’re likely feeling a range of emotions from embarrassment and low self-esteem to fear.
There are a number of signs that can indicate a child is being bullied:
- Shyness around other kids.
- Puts themselves down.
- Tries to avoid certain situations, such as going to school; faking illness to avoid school.
- Appears anxious.
- Not eating, binge eating; not sleeping well, nightmares.
- Doesn’t want to talk about school.
- Comes home from school with ripped clothing, or lost property.
- Physical ailments: headaches, stomach aches, unexplained injuries or accidents.
How to Help
Bullied children often feel highly sensitive about the topic, but they need to know that they must tell a trusted adult when it happens to them or if they see another child being bullied.
In order to help put a stop to the bullying, gently tease out as many details as possible from your child as to what the situation is. Ask where the bullying takes place, who it involves, the type of bullying, and how often it happens.
As difficult as it may be, encourage them to describe exactly what happened and how they responded to the situation: “When Jonathan pushed you, what did you do? What was happening before he pushed you?”
Keep your response calm and understanding. If you react strongly, you may scare your child into keeping bullying incidences a secret. Praise your child for opening up to you. Before moving forward, summarize the problem with your child based on what they told you, and let your child know that the two of you will work on a solution together.
With your child, make a list of simple things she can do now to address the bullying. Even if the solution seems impractical or silly, just roll with it and say, “OK, I will write down that option. Let’s keep thinking of some others.” This could include:
- Act brave. Firmly address the bully with “Stop it. I don’t like it when you push me.”
- Ignore and walk away.
- Find a trusted adult.
- Use the buddy system and avoid situations where the bully is present.
Help your child decide on a solution that makes sense for the situation. It might be helpful to act out the solution using role-playing, just so long as it doesn’t encourage fighting or violence: “Let’s pretend I am Harper and I come up to you and take your markers. What would you say to her? What will you do?” A couple of practice runs can help give your child the skills and confidence they need to cope with a bully.
If your child is being bullied at school, talk to your child’s teacher who can monitor the situation more closely and intervene if necessary. Your child’s teacher or school principal can also involve the other child’s parents and mediate those conversations for you if needed.
In the meantime, make sure your child is spending lots of time with peers and family who are supportive and a positive influence. This can help restore your child’s confidence and build resilience, which will help them more effectively cope with other life situations and face difficult situations in the road ahead.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com). Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website (https://parentingnow.org/) or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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