As a teacher and parent, I have seen my share of bullying, both subtle and overt. Here are some tips on how to keep bullies at bay:
Don’t play their game. If the bullying is nonviolent teasing and such, don’t play the game. What the bully wants is a reaction/tears/anger/yelling from someone so don’t give them the satisfaction. If possible, ignore it, laugh politely and remove yourself from the situation, stand up in a firm but funny, nonthreatening way and then leave the area. Blow them off and make them see that their taunts are silly and unimportant to you.
If bullying is violent or very offensive, an adult must be involved. Teachers and administrators will most likely not be surprised by your allegations as a bully is usually problematic in class with teachers and assistants as well as during free time with peers. If you don’t get the response you need, then, by all means, make an appointment with your principal. If there is still no resolution, just the mention of calling the police will usually get a positive response from the higher ups. Visit the school administration building and you will get what you need in most cases.
If life is not better for your child, consider switching classes, schools, or transportation if necessary. I don’t like to advocate this because it doesn’t really put your child’s mind at ease since there was no satisfactory resolution to the problem and they are losing out on the friendships they do have and the relationships they have already established. Also, the bully is still out there, usually terrorizing other kids as well. But in the end, your child is the most important consideration so do what you have to do to keep them happy and safe.
Start or suggest an anti-bullying program for your school. At a young age, kids should be taught how not to bully and how not to be bullied. There are many programs that are designed with this purpose in mind. Most schools have one. Also, teach staff how to recognize bullying, how to deal with it, and how to be approachable so that kids aren’t embarrassed to report it.
Help your child make friends in different circles. There may be a bully on the sports team so help your child make friends with the other kids on the team. Normally, the bully has bothered more than one person. When they see that the other kids are friends and are having fun in spite of his/her behavior, you may see a change. Get involved in extra-curriculars that interest your child so that they can make friends with the same interests. If your son is teased for taking dance class, let him make friends with other kids interested in dance and the arts. He may be the next world-class ballet star – don’t let a bully dictate your child’s future and discourage him from pursuing his interests.
If you are present when the bullying occurs, get involved. There is a teachable moment there when you can nicely show the kids how to share, speak nicely, take turns, or whatever has sprung up to give the bully a chance to dominate. Most bullies won’t stand up to a parent and some will even listen. Don’t point the bully out and say things in a light and humorous way if possible. Ask them for suggestions on how to play nice – “How can we all use the swings without anybody being left out?” “Wow, you all have some good ideas! Let’s try that! Okay, whose turn is it? Let’s flip a coin so it’s fair. In the meantime, why don’t we start a game of freeze tag for the rest of us?” Distract the bully, take the emphasis off of the crisis at hand, and steer those tempers into a more positive outlet!
Don’t tolerate physical violence or frightening intimidation of any sort – parents, teachers, administrators, and even police or security need to nip that in the bud immediately.