Learning that one of our children is being bullied at school is something that we all dread as parents, yet it’s a sad fact of life for many of our kids.
According to the Bullying No Way campaign, one in four Year 4-9 students are bullied at least every few weeks in Australia.
Bullying today goes beyond mere schoolyard name-calling. It comes in many forms, from spreading nasty rumours online to harassment via texting. So what can you do as a parent to help your child work through this? Here are a few coping tips.
Dealing with cyber bullying
Students today not only have to deal with the traditional forms of bullying that we may remember from our own school days – cyber bullying is a new form of harassment to contend with.
Online bullying can happen anytime, even outside of school, which can leave children feeling unsafe and vulnerable.
It can take many forms, including the following:
- Sending cruel or abusive emails and text messages
- Posting nasty photos or comments on social media
- Imitating someone else online
- Excluding children from online social groups
To start with combating cyber bullying, it’s important to teach your children some basic rules of online safety. This includes keeping their passwords and personal details private and avoiding posting anything that they wouldn’t want others to know about.
So what can you do when your child is being bullied online? Strategies include blocking the sender and taking a screenshot of the evidence. Online platforms like Facebook and FourSquare bear some responsibility for nipping it in the bud.
Here’s a list of links where you can report abusive behaviour. Aside from this, you can also follow the suggestions below that also pertain to in-person bullying:
Understand why bullying happens
It’s easy to write off all bullies as monsters, but there are reasons why this behaviour is so common with young people.
Many bully their peers due to a lack of perceived power at home, low self-esteem, or other issues.
This report at bullyingstatistics.org lists a number of potential causes of bullying, ranging from a culture that glorifies violence to social and family issues. Bullying can start as early as preschool, with behaviour escalating in the teen years. While you don’t need to make excuses for playground bullies, trying to understand their motivation can help you work through the problem with your child.
Model assertive behaviour
One of the best things you can do for your child is to be a good role model at home; the way you behave in intimidating situations is something to think about. If you are easily pushed around by others and your child sees this, she won’t know how to assert herself either. Remember, she’s learning social skills at home. If you need help with learning how to be more assertive, qualifications like a diploma of counselling can give you a great set of skills to use and model.
Practice ways to be assertive
Practice this behaviour at home, with role-play situations. This will arm your child with some tools to use when bullies confront them. Teach your child how to say “no,” “stop that,” or “it’s my turn to play now.” Practice until your child feels confident and can stay calm.
Be aware of your child’s social skills
It’s unfair, but bullies tend to pick on the kids who maybe don’t have as many friends or don’t have the best social skills. You can build these skills from an early age, arranging playdates with other children and watching your child’s interaction. If you see areas where there is room for improvement, try role-playing again.
Emphasise that it’s ok to tell an adult
Ideally, when children are bullied they feel safe enough to tell an adult. However, this is not always the case.
Let your child know that it’s ok to walk away and tell a grownup if the situation gets too heated. Bullying can escalate if it’s not dealt with. Make it clear that you’re always available to talk, and get the teacher involved if necessary. But if your child wants a chance to work out it out without parental intervention, give them that chance first.
As a parent, it’s ok for you to speak to an adult as well. If there is an ongoing bullying situation that your child isn’t able to stop, you need to talk to the school to work out a solution.
Tell your child to keep a record of the bullying behaviour, so that you can pinpoint when and where it occurs. This will help your case should you need to get administrators involved. And if physical violence is either threatened online or carried out, it’s time to talk to the police.
Have you been through this with one of your children? How did you handle it? Please share in the comments below.