Identifying and helping children manage bullying
by Amaka Obi
My friend’s son came home one day from school all uptight, not saying or eating much and generally not himself. My friend noticed but just thought he was tired. The mood didn’t change even well into the evening so she decided to find out what was bothering him. As she reached out to touch his arm and bring him closer, the boy winced in pain and jerked his arm away. That got my friend’s attention who then proceeded to investigate. She found bruising on his arm and fluid coming out of his ear. In alarm, she asked him what happened. At first he refused to talk but after much begging and cajoling, he finally opened up that a classmate (who is also the child of a family friend) was picking on him in school!
Turns out he has been enduring bullying in school for a while now and today the mom took notice.
This type of situation happens to many of our kids and many of them don’t say anything about it for so many reasons
A bully can make something as normal as going to school a nightmare! Bullying can leave deep emotional scars. And in extreme situations, it can involve violent threats, property damage, or someone getting seriously hurt.
If your child is being bullied, you want to act to help stop it, if possible. If you can’t stop it outright, there are ways to help your child cope with bullying and lessen its lasting impact. And even if bullying isn’t an issue right in your house right now, it’s important to discuss it so your kids will be prepared if it does happen.
Teasing is very different from bullying. Teasing is done is in a playful, friendly, and mutual way, and both kids find it funny. But when teasing becomes hurtful, unkind, and constant, it crosses the line into bullying and needs to stop.
Bullying can range from hitting, shoving, name-calling, threats, and mocking to extorting money and possessions. Some kids bully by shunning others and spreading rumors about them. Others use social media or electronic messaging to taunt others or hurt their feelings.
It’s important to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off as something that kids have to “tough out.” The effects can be serious and affect kids’ sense of safety and self-worth. In severe cases, bullying has contributed to tragedies, such as suicides.
Why do kids bully?
Kids bully for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they pick on kids because they need a victim — someone who seems emotionally or physically weaker, or just acts or appears different in some way — to feel more important, popular, or in control. Although some bullies are bigger or stronger than their victims, that’s not always the case.
Sometimes kids torment others because that’s the way they’ve been treated, that’s what they know. They may think their behavior is normal because they come from families where everyone regularly gets angry and shouts or calls each other names.
Signs of Bullying
Unless your child tells you about bullying — or has visible bruises or injuries — it can be difficult to figure out if it’s happening.
But there are some warning signs. Parents might notice kids acting differently or seeming anxious, or not eating, sleeping well, or doing the things they usually enjoy. When kids seem moodier or more easily upset than usual, or when they start avoiding certain situations (like going to school), it might be because of a bully.
If you suspect bullying but your child is reluctant to open up, find opportunities to bring up the issue in a tricky way. You could start by telling a story of a bully in your own school (real or fabricated), when you were younger. And then ask your child if there is anyone like that in his/her school. Don’t make it seem like you are prodding, create an impression of just talking with your child.
Helping a bullied kid
If your child tells you about being bullied, listen calmly and offer comfort and support. Kids are often reluctant to tell adults about bullying because they feel embarrassed and ashamed that it’s happening, or worry that their parents will be disappointed, upset, angry, or reactive.
Sometimes kids feel like it’s their own fault, that if they looked or acted differently it wouldn’t be happening. Sometimes they’re scared that if the bully finds out that they told, it will get worse. Others are worried that their parents won’t believe them or do anything about it. Or kids worry that their parents will urge them to fight back when they’re scared to.
- Praise your child for doing the right thing by talking to you about it. Remind your child that he or she isn’t alone — a lot of people get bullied at some point. Emphasize that it’s the bully who is behaving badly — not your child. Reassure your child that you will figure out what to do about it together.
- Report to someone at school, the head master, Principal or teacher. They are in a better position to monitor and take steps to prevent further problems.
Because the term “bullying” might be used to describe such a wide range of situations, there’s no one-size-fits all approach. What is advisable in one situation may not be appropriate in another. Many factors — such as the age of the kids involved, the severity of the situation, and the specific type of bullying behaviors — will help determine the best course of action.
- If you hear that the bullying will get worse if the bully finds out that your child told or if threats of physical harm are involved, please take it very serious. Sometimes it’s useful to approach the bully’s parents. But in most cases, teachers or counselors are the best ones to contact first. If you’ve tried those methods and still want to speak to the bullying child’s parents, it’s best to do so in a context where a school official, such as a counselor, can mediate.
What not to tell a bullied kid
Don’t tell the bullied child to fight back! Most times when parents learn that their children are being bullied, first instinct is to tell the child to fight back. After all, you’re angry that your child is suffering and maybe you were told to “stand up for yourself” when you were young. Or you may worry that your child will continue to suffer at the hands of the bully, and think that fighting back is the only way to put a bully in his or her place.
But it’s important to advise kids not to respond to bullying by fighting or bullying back. It can quickly escalate into violence, trouble, and someone getting injured. Instead, it’s best to walk away from the situation, hang out with others, and tell an adult.
Managing the situation
To manage bullies and bulling, you need to tell your kids to
- Avoid the bully and always be with a friend or friends, never be alone.
- Don’t react to the bully. Try not to cry in the face of bullying (it’s hard, but teach them to). It’s natural to get upset by the bully, but that’s what bullies thrive on. It makes them feel more powerful. Not reacting or crying takes the power away from the bully whose sole aim was to bring the “victim” down. Its not advisable to laugh in the face of the bully, though as this may further aggravate him/her.
- Tell an adult. Teachers, principals and parents can all help stop bullying.
- Talk about it. Talk to someone you trust, such as a guidance counselor, teacher, sibling, or friend. They may offer some helpful suggestions, and even if they can’t fix the situation, it may help you feel a little less alone.
April 28, 2018
October 15, 2017