-Mayah Taylor, MA
Bullying is an intentional, aggressive and repeated behavior that involves an imbalance of power or strength. Bullying has fast become a hot button topic in our society over the last decade. I’m sure you’ve seen the countless stories of children and teens who have harmed themselves or have taken their own life as a result of being bullied. I’m sure you have also read stories where children and teens who have been bullied in their childhood, harm others as a result of being bullied. Bullying is a vicious cycle that can be stopped. The first step into putting a stop to it is understanding what bullying is, identifying the warning signs that your child is being bullied, and going into action to stop it. In this blog we discuss warning signs that your child is being bullied and how you can act. While the lists below are by no means exhaustive, they do serve as an indicator that something is wrong and should be investigated by you, the parent or guardian, to rule out bullying or anything that may place your child in danger.
Another scenario that I wanted to speak to is the notion that your child may not be the one that is being bullied. It could be for some parents that their child is the one that is doing the bullying. I know this can be hard for some parents to digest the possibility that their own child is the bully but consider the fact that there are time such as when your child is in school or out playing with friends and not under your watchful eye. These may be the times that you are not aware of your child’s behaviors to know that they are bullying others. Thus, it is possible that even your child can be a bully. Being aware of characteristics of someone that bullies others can help stop the bullying of someone else and help to prevent bullying altogether. Below I have included warning signs to be aware of if your child may be bullying others.
If you are unsure about the signs you notice within your child, also bear in mind the meaning of bullying. Bullying can be defined as physical or verbal aggression that is repeated over a period of time and involves an imbalance of power. Cyber-bullying is when the harassment, name calling, gossiping, rumor spreading, threats, or other forms of intimidation go beyond being done in person or by phone and occurs in the use of emails, chat rooms, blogs, or other social media over the Internet. In our age of advancing technology, bullying is not limited to only happening in person and can follow you home and everywhere you go thanks to social media (Facebook, instagram, twitter, etc), internet, and our electronic devices (phones, computers, laptops, etc). This is why it can be so hard to escape bullying when it happens to a person, and why it is even more impactful and detrimental to a person. So now that we know what bullying is and we know the warning signs, how can parents take action against bullying?
If you suspect that your child is being bullied take it seriously and encourage them to talk about it. Children are not inclined to report that they are being bullied due to fear of retaliation, not wanting their parents to know what is being said or done to them, or they may feel like they need to handle it on their own. Reassure your child, remain calm at all times, and support your child as you help them feel comfortable to talk about the bullying. Let your child know that they do not have to handle this on their own and that they are not to blame for being the victim of bullying. You can also encourage your child to stay close to another student or a teacher to limit the opportunity the bully has in engaging with your child. A helpful way to stop the bullying is to contact the school to speak with your child’s principal, teacher(s), and school counselor regarding the bullying. It is helpful to remain in touch with your child’s school and to also be aware upon reaching out to them that they too may not be aware that your child is being bullied.
If you think your child is the one doing the bullying, it helps to also talk to your child. If there are any accusations made against your child, it is helpful to sit down with them, remain calm, and encourage them to talk to you about these accusations. It’s important in these situations to let your child speak about their side of the story. Be sure to hold your child fully and fairly accountable for their actions. You may also want to try spending more time with him or her, monitoring their activities, and supervising them appropriately. Another helpful tip includes staying in close touch with the school to monitor for any further incidents. You can also encourage your child to engage in positive social activities with positive role models and peers. If your child struggles with aggression or lack of emotional control, getting them involved in socially appropriate ways to express themselves can be helpful. Examples of socially appropriate activities can be through martial arts, sports, writing, or other supervised group activities.
While bullying takes a toll on your child, it is important to be sure that your child’s health and mental well being are also being attended to. You can do this by encouraging your child to engage in activities that they enjoy, build self esteem, build confidence, and increase their emotional strength. It can also help to seek out a mental health professional to help support your child and deal with significant emotional symptoms that they may be struggling with. These suggestions can also be extremely helpful to children who are the bully as there may be something underlying that needs addressing or is out of balance that could play a role into why they are bullying others. Overall it is important to be aware of the signs in order to be able to take a proactive approach in stopping bullying and promoting your child’s safety. We hope this blog has been helpful. Feel free to share with us your successes and failures with child bullying. Let us know the tips that have worked for you or what you have learned from your experience here.