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Helping Your Child Deal with Bullies

Is your child a victim of bullying, school bullying? Expert parenting advice to help your child in dealing with bullies.

What parenting advice do you have about bullying? Our sixth grader is a smart and pleasant kid who usually enjoys school. His teachers describe him as a capable and enthusiastic learner who gets along well with his peers. Unfortunately, they don't hear the taunts and see the bullying that takes place behind the scenes at recess, within the cafeteria, or on the bus. In fact, the boys responsible for the bullying also have a reputation as "nice kids." What do we do?

School Bullying. Profile of Today's School Bully

Bullying is a serious and pervasive problem in today's schools. It may take the form of verbal teasing and name-calling or actual physical contact, such as pushing, tripping, or shooting rubber bands at one's chosen target. One only has to think back to the catastrophic effects that such behavior has led to in schools such as Columbine to appreciate the damage it inflicts upon the inner fabric of children. Yet, even if a child target of bullying would never retaliate, he or she can carry emotional wounds that can affect their future decision-making, self-image, and socialization.

Today's children who hurt their peers often don't fit the stereotyped profile associated with bullies. Instead of being the unhappy, isolated figure with poor self-esteem, they may appear as the friendly, popular, and good student. Also, the bully may mistreat only one child, rather than display a bullying demeanor towards the peer group. And perhaps most daunting is that today's bully has become very adept at concealing his/her mistreatment of their chosen target, thereby leaving intact their reputation as a "nice kid." These variables make it especially important for children confronted by bullies to feel safe to confide in parents and teachers, and to be empowered by actions taken on their behalf.

Critical Steps to Help Your Child Deal with Bullies and Stop Being A Victim of Bullying

Here is some parent advice to help your child become "bully-wise" and stop bullying now:

Don't minimize the significance of what is happening to them. Children may experience much pressure not to "tattle" due to the associated negative connotations. Parents are wise to validate their children's feelings and perceptions, rather than simply tell them to "deal with it." Emphasize that their rights to feel safe in school are being violated, and promise them that you will take action to correct the situation.

Help your child consider if their behavior provokes bullies and draws them into the bully "firing zone." While not excusing the bully, gently suggest to your child that they may be drawing negative attention to themselves. Bullies tend to target children who possess certain "red flags." These include:

  • poor hygiene
  • clothing that is immature for their age
  • attention-seeking and/or regressive behaviors
  • self-control problems

If your child displays any of these red flag behaviors, offer to help them upgrade. Explain that even after the bullying stops, others in their peer group will make negative decisions about them based upon these behaviors.

Report the bullying to the teacher and school principal. Certainly, the school must be notified of the events reported by your child. Provide as much detail as possible as to the exact words and actions attributed to the bully. Request that your child not be questioned in the presence of the bully. Ask the principal to call the bully's parents. Ask your child to listen to your conversation with the principal so that they can model this type of self-assertion.

Lastly, but most critically, call the bully's parents. Do not allow the solution to be the dominion of the school. Allow the bully's parents to hear about your child's struggles in a respectful and tactful manner. Suggest to them that you are calling as a gesture of good will, since you would want to be similarly informed if they were calling the school to complain about your child. Parents of bullies have the most pointed impact upon bullying behavior, but only if we can stand up and let them know about it.

About Dr. Steven Richfield: Known as "The Parent Coach," Dr. Richfield is a child psychologist, parent/teacher trainer, author of "The Parent Coach: A New Approach To Parenting In Today's Society" and creator of the Parent Coaching Cards.

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2010, May 4). Helping Your Child Deal with Bullies, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/the-parent-coach/helping-your-child-deal-with-bullies

Last Updated: May 23, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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