An issue that has been coming up a lot recently in my therapy sessions with patients as well as coaching clients is the issue of bullying. There has been a national movement to address hazing on college campuses and bullying behavior across the board, but what exactly is bullying? I would note that what brought this issue into the national spotlight were some high profile news stories regarding children hurting themselves and hurting others with the apparent cause; bullying by others or often a handful of specific individuals.
Bullying is any behavior (verbal included) done with the purpose of hurting another individual. Often done repeatedly to a targeted group or one person in particular. There are some opinions such as "kids will be kids." and "let them work it out." often times made by individuals without kids or parents with kids having never experienced the targeted torture from another child. The fact stands that for whatever the reason our kids today are less prepared to handle the stress of life which includes dealing with a bully. If kids are not adequately prepared to deal with bullies then they will be markedly disadvantaged socially when they encounter bullies as adults (coworkers, family member, stranger, etc.)
So, how can you coach your child to deal with a bully? Ok, an important aspect needed is to first provide the opportunity for open dialogue with your child. Your son or daughter needs to feel comfortable enough to approach you with the problems they are facing at school. A major issue raised by the teens I work with is they are terrified their parents will march down to the school with their house slippers and cause a scene, so they keep their social problems to themselves. If you want that aura of openness, then convey that you will not act impulsively and work with your child to come to a solution.
Now, to handle specifically the bully, first teach your child to recognize and correctly identify a bully (someone meaning to do harm to them physically or emotionally). Ensure your child knows that this bullying is not OK and they do not deserve this. Once upon a time I would recommend to help your child approach the bully directly and try to resolve the problem nonviolently and without retaliation, however there have been too many cases of bullies escalating their aggression to the point of great harm to the child. We're in a different world now and your top priority is your child's safety.
Schools across the nation already have in place anti-bully initiatives and policies that should deal immediately with this sort of behavior. If your child is being bullied, then no doubt there are other kids in that school with this same problem. Reach out discretely to the teacher and principal to schedule a meeting so everyone can come to a resolution. Unfortunately, sometimes the discussion with school officials does little to alleviate the problem. If that is the case, then school Parent-Teacher Organizations are great for collaborating with parents and finding out the common issues students are facing. Reach out this organization and speak with the president then other parents to form a coalition to bring your concerns to the principal. If the problem is not addressed in a timely manner it is time to reach out to your school board or school committee members. You elected them for reasons such as this; to ensure your kids get the best education free from harm. They also create these anti-bullying policies and hire the superintendent.
As the issue is being resolved, usually through mediation, and behavior plans set in place for said bully, it is a great opportunity to have your child learn assertiveness skills to reinforce their self-esteem and to prepare them to effectively handle future social issues. Keep the dialogue open with them so they feel confident and safe to share with you any other problems they are facing.
How have you dealt with bullying at your child's school? What kind of response did you receive? If your school is not doing enough to keep your child safe, please reach out to me and I can give you more tips on holding your child's educators and elected officials accountable. Use the contact link with a description on what is happen and how you would like your child's school experience to be going forward. #SolutionFocused #Bullying #FreeToBe