Sticks and stones may not break their bones, but bullying can make any situation difficult to handle. According to the CDC, nearly 30 percent of youth in the U.S. grades six to 10 report being involved with bullying, either as a victim or a culprit.
Why Children Bully
Bullying is not only physical, but can also be verbal or emotional intimidation or even a combination of these. There are numerous reasons for bullying and most of them have to do with power. Very often, bullies have been victims themselves and see the role reversal as a way to stay in control. Other times, bullies may be in situations they don’t understand or can’t deal with, making them feel powerless or vulnerable.
If Your Child is the Bully…
While boys are more prone to physical bullying, girls are more likely to be culprits of emotional bullying, such as spreading rumors or social exclusion. Bullies tend to have dominant personalities, are hot-headed and easily frustrated. Keep an eye out for aggressive behavior, uncontrollable anger, excessive irritability and pro-violence views.
DO—Get Involved. Talk to your child’s teacher or principal about your concerns and see how you can work together to stop the bullying.
DON’T—Get defensive. No one likes hearing their child is a bully. But if it happens, be sure to listen and be open to discussing the situation. When talking to your child, don’t blame them for what’s happening. Instead, talk to them about their behavior and see if you can get to the root of the problem.
DO—Teach and reward. A solution starts at understanding your child’s feelings. Make it known that bullying is unacceptable and reward your child for more appropriate behavior.
Tip: Getting your child involved in extracurricular activities—whether sports, art classes or music—can help them refocus their energy into something productive.
If Your Child is the Victim…
Children with quiet personalities or are insecure are more likely to become victims of bullying. Signs of victimization can be changes in your child’s behavior; such as being overly emotional or anxious, trouble sleeping or low self-esteem. You may notice that your child is avoiding or dreading situations or places such as lunchtime, school buses or playgrounds. If your child comes home with unexplained bruises, bumps or scrapes, it’s time to get involved.
DO—Understand the situation. Find out the what, how and why. Fully understanding the situation will help you find solutions. Be comforting and supportive.
DON’T—Start pointing fingers. Finding someone to blame is not going to solve the problem. Anger, embarrassment, helplessness are normal responses when finding out your child is a victim of bullying, but don’t add your emotions into the mix.
DO—Find alternative reactions. Talk to your child about different ways to react to their bully/bullies. Encourage them be assertive. Tell your child it is OK not to react to bullying and simply walk away. If walking away does not help, tell your child to get help.
Tip: Try role-playing with your child, walking through situations so he or she can practice different responses. Acting out different scenarios can help your child know what to do if it occurs.
Tip: There’s strength in numbers and children in groups are less likely of being victims of bullying.
Regardless of your child’s role in the matter, bullying is a difficult situation to deal with for all those involved. It is important to take bullying seriously instead of treating it as a part of growing up.
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