Most everyone has a story to tell of school bullies. Unfortunately, with each new generation it seems that the possibilities for bullying grow. Today, bullies have the internet MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, cell phone texting and more as tools in attacking their victims. Bullies abound at every level, from kindergarten through high school and the work place.
Let’s assume you have noticed that your previously happy, talkative achiever has changed to a sullen introvert whose grades are falling. Approaching your child on their turf – their bedroom – you gently encourage them to talk and you learn that they have an antagonist. You hear of the hard nudges that knock their books or tray out of their hands. You learn that your child is afraid to go to the restroom for fear they will be cornered and threatened for money, assignments, or whatever the bully deems valuable. They tell you of name-calling, gum in their hair, being tripped, taunted online, and humiliated in front of peers. As the story continues, tears fill your eyes and your mind races to find the words or ideas that will stop anyone from bullying your child.
There is no easy solution. You cannot just kiss it, put a bandage on it and expect it to go away effortlessly. It takes a brave child to confront their opponents and it is the responsibility of parents and school adults to teach children how to deal with bullies. We need to be proactive in combating their meanness. Consider talking about the following guidelines with your child and keeping communication open. You will need to address the topic time and again until you are satisfied the bullying has stopped and your child exhibits peace and happiness.
Teamwork is needed.
It is a team battle. You and your child need to get their teacher(s), administration, and guidance counselor on board. When you learn your child is a victim, immediately contact your school principal to set up a meeting with the teacher, and guidance counselor. Most schools have a zero-tolerance plan for bullying. Expect that the oppressing child will be reprimanded and told of future consequences like suspension. Depending on the situation, it may be advantageous for the school administrator to contact the other student’s parents so they can also take measures to stem the abuse. If these contacts do not solve the problem, it may call for police intervention. You will want to contact the police immediately, however, if your child shows you physical marks where the bully has struck or pushed them.
Be a groupy.
Encourage your child to avoid being alone. Groups, even 2 or 3 in number, are safer. If they see a situation arising, they should immediately request help from the nearest campus adult. The entire faculty desires to have a safe, non-threatening campus and are available to prevent trouble. If a faculty member does not intercede, teach your child to go to another. They should persist until they get help.
Walking confidently and speaking firmly to the offending bully may go further than ignoring them. Although sometimes ignoring them is simply easier and effective for the time and place, making a nonprovoking comment that carries the message “I hear you, but you don’t bother me” can stop the taunts. Practice replies with your child. It is often difficult to come up with a spontaneous comment when anxious or angry. Consider the following:
* Taunt: You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny. Reply: I dress myself, thank you. . . or, I like this look.
* Taunt: You’re so stupid. Reply: I get an A for effort.
* Taunt: Give me your spelling words. Reply: Don’t bother me.
If bullying continues, talk to the guidance counselor and/or teacher about teaching an entire class lesson on how to prevent or intervene when a classmate is being bullied. Teaching students how to respond when they are the victim or witness of bullying is a major step to eliminate the problem. Often, when another student simply tells the bully to stop, tells them it’s not nice, and then walks away with the harassed child, the bully quits. When other children intervene on behalf of the victim, they are creating a caring and safe society for everyone.