Prevalence of Bullying
Have you had experiences when your child was the victim of a bully?
They are afraid to go to school.
The latest statistics reveal that nearly one child in four said he/she has been bullied by classmates. Probably the largest study of schoolyard bullying an Australian study of nearly four thousand teen and pre-teen children said that nearly 15% said they were bullied. Nearly a quarter admitted to being a bully at one time and stated that they were also victims of bullying. 40% said they were neither bullied or the victim of bullying. An American study of grade six to ten students revealed that 13% had been bullies. A little over ten percent said they were victims of bullying, while 6% said they were both. 43% of the children in a Georgia study admitted they were afraid to use the school bathrooms.
Physical bullying is more prevalent in boys and verbal and cyber bullying tends to be more a female bullying.
Victim Red Flags
While victims come in all sizes, races, genders, and ages, there are some common characteristics. Knowing these can help you train your child not to exhibit these behaviors. They are red flags to schoolyard bullies.
Bullies pick on people who are different. They look or sound or behave differently. This tends to get them singled out. While becoming a follower is not what you, as a parent, strive to teach your child, helping him avoid being a target is a good strategy in avoiding bullying. Some differences like race, accent, color or mental deficiency cannot be changed there are other traits that can help your child fit in. The kids who wear the Steve Erkel outfit or carry a brief case in grade four are just asking for trouble.
Help your child avoid “standing out” in areas he can avoid.
Poor social skills will make a child a victim. Lack of social awareness and/or poor communication skills are flags to bullies.
Victims of bullying have few if any friends. They have no social support network when bullies swoop in.
Victims are non-confrontational. While we do not want to turn our victim into a bully, there are behaviors which flag a child as a victim. These include: crying, giving in to demands, pleading, begging and going to excessive measures to avoid.
How to Bully Proof Your Child
So, knowing about victims, how can you help your child avoid being one? Bully proofing starts at home. Bully proofing prevents rather than combats bullying.
The best first thing parents can do is instill self-confidence and self-worth in children.
Start early to talk to your child and encourage him to share what went on at daycare or school. Kids rarely respond well to these questions:
What did you do at school today?
What happened at school today?
(The reply? “Nothing.” Easy answer. Requires no thought!)
Instead, ask, “Tell me three good things that happened to you today.” Your child now has to think over his day and extract three good things. Don’t ask for a “bad thing that happened to you today.” This causes your child to conjure up a ‘bad thing’ and leads him to look for a ‘bad thing’ he can report tomorrow! Kids get so accustomed to this question that they will blurt out their three good things immediately upon seeing you. Later add “three good things that happened to others.” This opens your child to consider the existence and feelings of others.
Asking your child to tell you about something that worked well is also a good conversation starter.
In this way kids are learning to talk about feelings.
Involve your child in making choices. Praise things like being a good sport, encouraging others, giving others a turn, trying your hardest, listening to the coach. In your talk demonstrate a deep knowledge of and appreciation for who your child is! You are helping him develop a self-concept.
Help your child make friends. Friends are a buffer against bullies and they build confidence, dispel loneliness and make a child secure in who he is.
Teach your child how to deal with teasing without over-reacting. When bullies can “get your goat” they will escalate the behavior simply because they can.
Don’t make your child a mark if you can avoid it. If he dresses differently or wears dorky glasses or carries a briefcase when every other kid has a backpack you are not helping him fit in. Teach your child to be comfortable with the “differences” he cannot change. So he has a Texas accent or red hair or glasses or braces on his teeth or he is short or gangly. It is not the differences but how we deal with them that make any of us vulnerable to bullying.
Empower your child with non-aggressive ways to deal with bullying. Discuss with him how to be assertive without being aggressive.
Involve your child in activities that will build confidence and establish a social network. Karate, sports, gymnastics, young toastmasters, chess club….all build your child’s confidence and his feeling of being in control. While he’s developing athletic and other skills he will be busily occupied and making friends. When your child excels at something he gains power and confidence.
Get involved in what your child is doing. Perhaps the team needs a snack organizer or an assistant coach. Offer to help. Don’t just drop your child off at an activity. Stay to watch, to cheer and to observe. The number one indicator of school success is parent involvement.
Be a good listener and don’t over-react. Instead of playing the helicopter and swooping in to rescue your child help him come up with a plan to solve a problem. Solving it himself will give him the confidence to deal with the next instance of bullying.
Be part of the solution not a reporter of the problem. If bullying is a problem at your child’s school, there is a good chance the school staff is well aware of it. They need to be aware of problems but they also need parent support. Instead of being confrontational, offer suggestions, resources, and assistance. Model good problem solving skills for your child.
Use role play with kids to teach them to establish positive social behaviors like:
• Making eye contact. Model looking directly at someone when speaking to him.
• Speaking up. In a loud clear voice, have your child say, “You are bullying me and I don’t like it. Back off!” Bullies are intimidated by assertive behavior.
• Indicating that a behavior is hurtful or unpleasant. For example, “Brian, when you call me a Dweeb it hurts my feelings.” Teach your child to communicate feelings.
Model and encourage assertive behavior. One of the reasons bullies flourish is what Barbara Coloroso labels “the by stander”. Those who see something going on and are silent or cheer or laugh are adding to the bully’s power. By speaking out against a wrong or intervening on the victim’s behalf we all take power from the bully. As a parent you need to teach and mode courage to be assertive.
Model good problem solving behavior. When confronted with an issue such as bullying, show your child how to confront this issue calmly and with a plan. Once children see how you handled the pushy parent, they will feel empowered to tackle their own problems.
Do you have stories of how you have helped your child deal effectively with bullying? We’d love to hear them!
Do you have helpful resources on bullying to share?
Advice for dealing with Bullies. http://www.Kidscape.org.uk.
Bullying and what can be done. http://www.bullybeware.com/moreinfo.html.
Barbara Coloroso. The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander
Kenneth Ginsburg. Letting Go with Love and Confidence: Raising Responsible, Resilient, Self-Sufficient Teens in the 21st Century.
How to Beat Up a Bully (video) http://www.ehow.com/video_4961747_beat-up-bully
Izzy Kalman. Bullies to Buddies: How to Turn Your Enemies into Friends
Dan Olweus. Bullying at School
Richard Weissbourd The Parents We Mean to be
Oprah Winfrey. How Bullying Affects a Child like Matthew. http://www.oprah.com/relationships/Bullyproof-Your-Child-for-Life#ixzz1yGlNxt3U.