Seth, a 10-year-old, asked his mom for more and more lunch money each day, yet he seemed thinner and came home from school hungry. He was handing his lunch money to a fifth-grader, who threatened to beat him up if he did not pay up. Kayla, thirteen, thought, because all the popular girls were being so nice to her, that things were going well at her new school. She soon found out that one of them had posted mean rumors about her. She became depressed and complained to the school nurse of being sick to avoid the girls in study hall.
Unfortunately, bullying experienced by Seth and Kayla is widespread. National surveys indicate that school-aged children say that bullying happens at school and on the bus.
Getting on the school bus or to recess can be frightening to children who are bullied. It can leave deep emotional scars. In extreme cases, bullying can involve violent threats, property damage or someone getting seriously hurt. If possible, if your child is bullied, try to help stop it by speaking with the teacher. There are ways to help your child deal with teasing, bullying, or mean gossip and lessen its lasting impact.
Discuss bullying so your child will be prepared if it should happen:
- Stay Connected. Bullies make their victim feel alone and powerless. A child will reclaim their power when they make and maintain connections with faithful friends and supportive adults.
- Create Awareness. We as adults often are not aware of what is going on at school. A bully will use interpersonal aggression to inflict their violence in subtle, socially acceptable ways that do not register on an adult’s radar. Teach your child that they must create awareness. Let them know that confiding in an adult about bullying is not cowardly, but rather a brave and powerful move.
- Re-define Tattling. A child was spitting on a student on the school bus. She was worried that if she told the bus driver she would be labeled a “tattletale.” This is exactly what the bully wanted her to think! Isolation is a bully’s method of intimidation. Honestly, it is only by telling an adult that kids can begin to re-balance the power dynamic. The bully will realize that they will not be able to keep the victim isolated and will begin to lose power.
- Act Quickly. The longer the bully has control over a victim, the stronger the hold becomes. Bullying may begin in a mild form of name-calling, teasing, or minor physical aggression. When the bully realizes that a victim is not going to stand up to him or her, the aggression worsens. Teach your child that taking action against the bully sooner rather than later is the best way to gain and retain power.
- Respond Assertively. When the victim does not respond to the bully, the behavior will usually escalate. An assertive response is the effective way of countering bullying. Children who master assertiveness skills are comfortable in the middle ground between aggressive comebacks that up the ante for the next bullying behavior. Passive responses only invite further abuse.
- Use Simple, Unemotional Language. Assertive, unemotional, direct language let bullies know that they will not be victimized. This “unemotional” response without anger or fear will portray confidence and in turn, the bully will detect less potential for keeping control.
- Use Body Language to Enforce Words. As you teach your child the skills of assertive communication, practice using body language to reinforce words. Teach these simple, non-verbal assertive strategies that will indicate to the bully that he or she means what they say: * Maintain eye contact
- Keep your voice calm and even
- Stand an appropriate distance from the bully
- Use the bully’s name when speaking to him
Teach your child that emotional non-verbals such as looking away, raising their voice or shrinking back are indications that the bully has gotten to him or her.