For every child who experiences bullying, there’s a bully or a group of bullies out there. How and why did those children become kids who hurt other kids? The answer is rarely simple.
During National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, find out how you can encourage your kids to avoid bullying behavior.
We often focus on the victims of bullying, but who are the bullies? Bullying awareness and prevention can begin at home. We reached out to a teacher and parents to find out how they approach the difficult subject of bullying.
Kids can’t fight bullying without support
Bullying and cyberbullying are hot topics now more than ever. Some argue that bullying is a buzzword and that the term is overused. As long as bullying continues to be a source of injury, emotional distress and even suicide among tweens and teens, it’s crucial to keep talking about it. Kids need to feel empowered to fight bullying, report bullying and avoid becoming bullies. Bullies aren’t cartoon characters. They’re not villains. They’re children and teens. You might be the parent of a bully. How do you stop bullying where it starts?
Ask for help
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the task of preventing bullying. Reach out for help. Try not to get defensive if your child has behavior problems at school. Instead, work with your child’s teacher to come up with an action plan. Schedule a conference to find out how your child’s behavior differs from school and at home. Find out if the guidance counselor has advice. Check out resources for parents, such as the fact sheet on what to do if your child is a bully at Stomp Out Bullying.
Read about nurturing an edgy teen >>
Recognize that bullying is often a coping mechanism
Amy-Elizabeth is a high school teacher who attended special needs classes from kindergarten until graduation. After being bullied for years, she began bullying others. Now she recognizes that bullying often comes from a place of feeling powerless. “The best way for someone to not become a bully is to promote self-awareness in your child,” she says. “If your child can articulate feelings, in a safe space, it’s highly likely a student can ease their inner turmoil without striking out at another person. As an adult, I know that the people who tormented me in school were just as frustrated, isolated and scared as my younger self. I often wonder what it would have been like to have been young and [to have] been able to understand my own feelings enough to talk to an adult that I trusted.”
Learn about parental rights against bullying >>
Turn to advice from other parents
Real moms chime in with their suggestions and advice about bullying.
- “Having constant open dialogue with your child is a must. They will share what is going on at school if they feel safe and heard. Often these conversations open a myriad of topics for parents to discuss with their child,” shares Kayla, mom of one.
- “When I pick my son up from school, I often ask him to tell me one way that he was kind. This can be pretty loose — he can do an unsolicited task for a teacher, ask if someone is OK if they seem to get hurt or even just do his own work without disturbing others. I hope this will train him to seek out ways to be kind to other people, and to notice when someone may need a little extra nice,” Rachael, mom of two, says.
- “In preschool, I gave my kids scripts to use. Here’s what you can say if you notice ‘x’ on the playground. With the older ones, we have frank conversations. We talk about feelings. Being picked on can make you want to pick on someone else,” says Ali, mom of four.
- “I read The Hundred Dresses to my kids to open a discussion of both bullying and standing by when others are,” shares Heidi, mom of three.
- “They can’t use the power of being older when playing with their little brother or sister. No rule changing, no mocking. No telling embarrassing stories to humiliate. I don’t make it mandatory that they play with each other but they can’t exclude to be mean or in a mean way,” says Mona, mom of three.