School bullying can be a real problem for children whether they are in elementary school or older. What might start out as pretty harmless teasing can escalate into something more if not stopped early enough. Both school officials and parents need to know when and how to intervene when a child is being bullied. The key is understanding when intervening will help and when intervening will just make the situation worse.
When parents should let it go
Most kids will at some point be teased by their peers. Many of them will also be doing the teasing. Although playful or even mean teasing might not be an enjoyable experience for children, teasing at its most basic level rarely causes lasting damage to the child. Often the other kid only wants a reaction, and if the child’s parents get involved, instead of the teasing getting better, the kid is only going to get teased more. Mom and dad should not intervene when the child can handle the situation on his or her own. If the kid ignores the teasing, sometimes it will stop. For other kids, particularly if the teasing was meant to be playful, simply standing up for themselves can end the teasing.
When parents should intervene
Sometimes, though, bullying gets physical, and even verbal bullying sometimes requires a parent to intervene. Parents who know their child or another child is being bullied need to intervene. This can be a tricky thing, because if it’s not handled properly, instead of helping, it can actually make things worse. Parents should consider informing the school of the situation and making it clear that they expect the school to do something about the bullying situation. If the parents know the family of the child, they may want to also inform the parents or other adults of the bullying situation.
Parents must understand just because they have informed others of the situation does not mean things will get better. Some parents are unwilling to believe their child would ever be the cause of the problem. In an extreme case where the school is unwilling to do anything about the bullying situation, parents may have to remove their child from the bullying environment. This might mean moving their child to another classroom, providing other transportation for their child to and from school, or even moving their child to another school.
Parents of the bully may also have to do something about it. Have the child publicly apologize to the victim and maybe even pay the child back monetarily if the bully has ruined the other child’s property. Take away privileges like cell phones and laptops. Drive the bullying child to and from school. Make sure the child’s teacher provides updates on the child’s behavior for the day. Of course, it is also important for the bullying child to feel the love of their parents even as he or she is being punished for the bullying behavior. Parents should talk over the situation with their child. Maybe there is an underlying reason why the child is bullying another child. Parents should come to understand the reason and attempt to make things better for the bully as well as for the bullied child.
When school officials should let it go
School officials should not look the other way when bullying is going on, as this can result in teachers and other school officials losing their job, getting sued by the parents of the child who is getting bullied, and even lasting physical damage to the bullied child. In extreme cases, a bullied child will want to seek revenge, and this could result in serious injury or death. Like parents, school officials should understand the difference between good-natured teasing between peers and actual bullying. Generally, it is pretty easy to see the difference. If both participants seem to be enjoying it, chances are it is not bullying. If one participant seems hurt or sad, it is probably time for the teacher or other school official to intervene.
When school officials should intervene
For school officials, intervening might simply mean telling the offender to stop the bullying or teasing. It could also include acting as an intermediary and talking over the situation with the kids. Being someone the bullied child can talk to is also important. For some teachers, intervening will mean sending the offender to the principal’s office or informing administrative officials of the situation. The sooner a teacher intervenes, the more likely the situation will not get too out of control.
To stop bullying, administrative officials will sometimes have to suspend or expel offenders. They will sometimes also have to encourage or even require a child gets counseling and other help. This might be for the offender as well as the victim. Informing parents of the situation may also help to cut down on the cases of bullying.
Unfortunately, sometimes teachers and other school officials have to physically intervene when bullying escalates into physical violence. This can be a tough situation because a small teacher jumping in the middle of a high school fistfight may not be of any assistance but may instead only end up getting injured as well. Moving other children out of the way so other teachers can intervene may be the best way a smaller teacher can intervene physically. If a school foresees a potential bullying problem, it is a good idea for school officials to discuss what needs to be done if the bullying escalates into physical violence. Teachers working together to control the situation quickly and effectively is a good approach.
When other students should intervene
Students can defend their peers by standing up for and befriending the child who is being bullied. This can be especially helpful if the person standing up for the victim is someone who is respected and admired in the school. Then the bullied child feels important. Just that simple thing can make a huge difference to a child who has been bullied often and who might not feel like he or she has a lot of friends. Informing teachers and other officials of the situation is also helpful. Some students might also feel like they should physically intervene when another student is being bullied. This can be a tricky situation, but when appropriate, the student should do what he or she can to protect other students.