As a parent, you would love to learn that your child’s days spent at school are happy and carefree. Ideally, your child would get along with everyone, and everyone would be friendly and respectful to your child. However, in reality, many children are faced with bullies at school. According to National Center for Educational Statistics, about one out of five students reported being bullied in 2016, and 64% of children who were bullied did not report it.
In some cases, an incidence of bullying ends almost as quickly as it begins. However, many other cases of bullying lead to months or even years of torment, and you may have heard news stories at some bullying incidences that have tragic ends for the bullied child. This is certainly not a situation that any parent wants to deal with. If you have recently learned about an issue with your child, you may be wondering what to do when your child is being bullied. Bully proofing your child is not always possible, but you can learn what steps to take when bullying does become an issue.
Pay Attention to Signs of Trouble
Before you can begin bully proofing your child, you must first learn to pay attention to your child. Children who are dealing with issues at school often show tell-tale signs of problems that attentive parents can easily identify. For example, their grades may begin to fall, and they may have a change in appetite. You may notice that your child does not want to go to school and may even become emotional when you force him or to attend class. Your child’s clothes may be torn, or you may notice scratches or other marks on him or her. These are signs of an increasingly dangerous situation, and it is important that you take action immediately.
Encourage Open Communication With Your Kids
When you want to know how to protect your child from bullying, you must learn more about the situation before you can act further. Children are often embarrassed or intimidated by the situation. They may fear that you will be less pleased with them or that they may get in trouble in some way. Because of this, many are reluctant to talk to their parents about the bullying that is taking place. Explain to your child that the issue will not go away and may get worse, and tell your child that he or she is not in trouble with you or the school. More than that, explain that you want to help, and the only way you can help is if you know what is going on. After you learn about a bullying situation, make sure to ask your child each day if an incident occurred so that you can act appropriately.
Promote Dialog Between Your Child and Teachers or Counselors
An important step to know how to deal with bullying at school as a parent involves open communication with the school. First, your child’s teacher needs to be aware of the situation. Begin the process with written correspondence, such as an email. Your child’s teacher may respond with a phone call or may request a meeting. However, initial correspondence should be in writing so that you can document your concern. Any additional reports of bullying should also be made in writing. If the matter escalates to a legal issue, you will be happy that you documented the issue in writing. You may also contact the school’s counselor so that your child has someone else to talk to. Bullies often feel empowered when they feel as though their victim is alone in his or her struggle. By educating other adults on-site about the issue, you are helping to take the bully’s power away while also giving your child the support he or she needs at school.
Talk About the Difference Between Tattling and Self-Protection
Children are often taught that tattling is bad. However, when their safety and welfare is a concern, this is not a tattling issue. Talk to your child about the differences between tattling and self-protecting. Any time an individual seeks assistance for becoming a victim, this is a matter of self-protection. Self-protection is the right move to make, and it can help to prevent further activity by the bully.
Do Not Let the Situation Work Itself Out
Some parents unfortunately believe that a bullying situation will simply work itself out. They think this is a matter of kids being kids. The reality is that most bullies will test the waters initially through name-calling and other forms of emotional abuse. When they realize that they are getting away with their actions, their actions tend to escalate. Eventually, their actions may become even more terrorizing to the child, and the child may even be physically assaulted or worse.
Teach Your Child How to Be Assertive
While involving the school in the campaign to stop bullying from occurring is often effective, your child still needs to learn how to stand up to the bully in an effort to stop the situation from happening. Assertiveness is critical. Bullies often gain power over a victim when the victim acts helpless. The bully feeds off of this energy. When a child is assertive, the bully loses power. Your child can prove his or her assertiveness by looking the bully directly in the eye, using the bully’s name when speaking to him or her, standing a distance away from the bully and speaking calmly and confidently.
Talk to Your Child About Not Showing Emotion
Bullies also draw power off of seeing that their actions create an emotional response in their victim. It is understandable that kids who are being bullied feel low and even start crying. However, explain to your child the effect that an emotional response has on a bully, and talk to your child about strategies for controlling their emotions. For example, clenching a fist or taking a deep breath are better options than crying or yelling back at the bully.
Bullying has been a problem in schools for decades, and the reality is that many parents will face this issue with their own children. While these steps can help, there are times when kids need someone else to talk to. Give your kids the phone number of counseling or kids helpline so that they feel as though they can take additional steps on their own if needed.
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