There is a good chance that your child will be bullied at some point in his/her life. The first thing you can do if your child is being bullied is to encourage him/her to talk about it with you. Be sure that you are listening in a way that is not judgmental and that encourages your child to feel safe. If he/she is having a hard time talking about it, give the child a notebook and ask him/her to write about it. If your child is not willing to talk to you about the bullying, see if they will talk with another trusted adult such as an aunt or uncle or a school guidance counselor.
It will be good to ask your child to tell you or write down as many specific details as he/she can remember about the bullying. If the bullying is occurring online, save all of the messages. If there are physical injuries or damages, be sure to photograph and document the injuries. If the bullying is happening at school, make the child’s teacher and principal aware of the situation. Stay in touch with the teachers and principal and make them aware of any additional bullying occurrences that occur. Document all of your communication with the school officials. If bullying turns physical at any time, or if your child is being threatened, it can be reported to the police.
The level of bullying depends on how involved you as the parent should get. Your most important job is to keep your child feeling good about him/herself. Explain that bullies bully because they do not feel good about themselves about something. Reiterate to your child that there is nothing wrong with him/her. Remind your child that he/she is not to blame for the bullying and that he/she is a good person. Try to keep their self-esteem raised and help them to recognize their positive qualities.
Work with your child to develop a plan to deal with the bullying. Practice with the child how they should respond to bullying situations. Remind them to be assertive not aggressive. Violence is not the solution, even when it is used as self-defense. Do not promote the eye for an eye approach to bullying; it is important that violence is completely avoided. Instead, teach your child how to be assertive. This is a skill that will help them for the rest of their lives!
Teach your child how to use assertive communication to make a statement to the bully in a one on one conversation. Start the statement with “I”, then how your child is feeling, the cause, and what he or she wants out of the situation. For example: “I feel disrespected when you call me names, please stop.” This statement should be said using a strong and firm tone of voice, and the child should have a straight posture and direct eye contact with the bully. For children, this is easier said than done! So make sure to practice with your child his or her assertive statements, using scenarios and role play. If necessary, the child should keep repeating the statement to ensure the bully understands how your child is feeling and what he/she wants from the situation.
Sometimes all that it takes is having this conversation for the bullying to stop. Unfortunately other times the bullying is at a more advanced level, if there is ever the threat of physical violence or threatening behavior the child needs to immediately leave and tell a trusted adult. Your child should tell the adult exactly what the bully said and did, and the steps your child took to try to deflate the bully (communicating assertively). Remind your child that exiting the situation is not cowardly but rather acting wisely and avoiding confrontation and escalating violence. Telling an adult when they are being bullied is an effective way to stop bullying because the bully does not want to get caught. Let your child know that they should come to you if they are the victim of a bully or if they see others being bullied.
Encourage your child to surround him/herself with friends when the bullying takes place. If they see the bully approaching they should go and play somewhere else.
Lastly, it is important to remember to be a good citizen at all times. It is very important that we do not bully anyone ourselves, as our children learn from us. Every time that we see or hear someone bullying another, whether between siblings, relatives, or friends, we need to point out to our children that this is wrong and should not be done.
By Darine El Masri.
© Hachette Antoine S.A.L.