SIMPLYkc MAGAZINE (SEPT 2012) PARENTING
BULLY-PROOFING CHILDREN: REDUCING THEIR RISK
BY STACEY HATTON
Bullying isn’t original for this generation of children; but perhaps the methodology of preventing your child from being threatened by the proverbial “thugs” has changed. You don’t have to start your preschooler in Karate or dress them in designer clothes to ensure they won’t get picked on because, unfortunately, genetics plays a mean hand in this longstanding battle.
WHO’S AT RISK?
Children who are smaller, weaker, and appear shyer than other classmates are typically targeted by bullies. There’s no gender discrimination when it comes to bullying – both boys and girls can be targets AND bullies. However, kids who easily get emotional (i.e., crying, angry), or “give in” to their bully, puts them at a higher risk for being repeated targets.
Bullying can occur anywhere: at school (recess, lunch room, bathroom, hallways, or any place a teacher isn’t watching), when adults are absent (around the neighborhood, on the way to school, church or extra-curricular activities) or via computers or cell phones (emails and texting are increasing in severity and frequency of harassment). Bullying can be verbal, social and/or physical, or it can be one or a combination of these; but each type is just as destructive to the psyche of the bullied child. Examples of bullied attacks:
Verbal: Threatens, teases, taunts, speaks hatefully.
Social: Excludes child from events and stories, start rumors about them.
Physical: Pushes, slaps, punches, kicks, chokes.
ADDRESSING ISSUE HEAD ON
If you believe your child isn’t being bullied, it’s still beneficial to have the “bully conversation” with your family. They may know someone being mistreated and want to help, OR you could be wrong and someone is actually picking on your child. When there are no distractions and emotions are calm, ask your child, “Do you like all the kids in your class?” “Does everyone get along?” “Is anyone getting picked on or bullied?” Then educate in these areas:
1. Ask for help: Adults may need to mediate when the bullying occurs. Tell your child it’s appropriate and not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It’s not the child’s fault they are being attacked. “If a store is being robbed, doesn’t the store clerk call the police for backup?”
2. Make more friends: Four against one is better odds. If your child has friends who will stick up for him and verbally defend him, your child’s self-esteem will increase and he will find strength in numbers.
3. Extra-curricular activities: Being involved in a group, school club, or sports team will makes them feel like they “belong.” Just make sure they don’t join the same team as the bully.
4. Alerting school officials: Let everyone involved in your child’s life at the school know about the bullying, so they can intervene. If school officials don’t know of the problem, protect your child. Speak with the principal, the guidance counselor, and your child’s teachers. It takes a team to stifle this type of behavior.
If your child needs to approach his or her bully and training needs to take place, there are a few skills you can work on to get your kiddo through self-esteem “boot camp.” First you verbally educate her on how to stand up to the bully. Then you must “play act” these skills with your child. Usually, you will have to do this repeatedly or she won’t muster up the strength to address the bully. First, she must look the bully in the eye while standing tall and staying as calm as can be. Then she should announce her “catch phrase” and walk away strongly and proudly. This is NOT an easy task…hence, practice with your child.
Teach your child to say in a clear, firm voice: (AAP recommendations)
- “I don’t like what you are doing.”
- “Please do NOT talk to me like that.”
- “Why would you say that?”
UH-OH! YOUR KID’S THE BULLY!
If you discover your child displaying bullying behavior, don’t waste time because typically their actions worsen with time. Take bullying seriously, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), follow these guidelines for the child:
- Set firm and consistent limits on your child’s aggressive behavior. Be sure your child knows that bullying is never OK.
- Be a positive role model. Children need to develop new and constructive strategies for getting what they want.
- Show children that they can get what they want without teasing, threatening, or hurting someone. All children can learn to treat others with respect.
- Use effective, nonphysical discipline, such as loss of privileges. When your child needs discipline, explain why the behavior was wrong and how your child can change it.
- Help your child understand how bullying hurts other children. Give real examples of the good and bad results of your child’s actions.
- Develop practical solutions with others. Together with the school principal, teachers, counselors, and parents of the children your child has bullied, find positive ways to stop the bullying.
According to Sydney Sauer, School Counselor at Heartland Elementary School in Overland Park, KS, “All elementary school counselors address the topic of bullying. Three books I frequently recommend for parents to read are Queen Bees and Wannabes, by Rosalind Wiseman (especially for 4th and 5th graders), Bullies & Victims: Helping Your Children Through the Schoolyard Battlefield by SuEllen Fried, and Barbara Coloroso’s book, The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander.” The picture book, One, by Kathryn Otoshi is an excellent resource for 5-10 year olds to supplement parental “anti-bullying” education.
As always, if you see your child’s behavior progressing or spiraling out of control, make sure to consult with your child’s medical provider.
What’s your bullying story? Were you or your child ever victims of a bully’s attack? Does your child’s school have an interesting policy on bullying? Is this information useful to you and your family? Please share below in the comment section… Stacey
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© 2012, Stacey Hatton. All rights reserved.