Three ways children can be bullied:
Physical bullying - This happens when your child is hit, pushed, has her hair pulled, and so on.
Verbal bullying - By far the most common is name calling, sexist and racist comments, verbal threats, cruel jokes about appearance, disabilities, religion, idiosyncrasies. We need to stop calling this "teasing", which is appropriate only when applied to a playful situation, when both people are having fun. This is a form of abuse.
Relational bullying - This means being left out, gossiping or exclusion. Relational bullying thrives in a climate that encourages the formation of cliques. This is a form of bullying that can become severe in middle school and high school.
How to help
Talk to your kids - Ask your kids what's going on at school. Don't be afraid to talk about bullying if you suspect it. Especially as children get older, they may feel embarrassed or ashamed that it's happening, and you'll need to bring it up. Let them know they have nothing to be ashamed of. It's not their fault.
Take bullying seriously - Often parents think a child may be over-reacting or that it's inconsequential. It's important to realize that being a target of bullying can affect a child significantly. Just talking with you about probably took a lot of courage. Work to help your child find solutions.
Get involved with your PTA or PTO - Find out what's being done at your child's school to stop bullying. Be proactive when it comes to assuring that your child's school has a clear no-bullying policy, and that all staff have been trained in bullying prevention.
What your child can do to avoid being bullied
Being bullied is never a child's fault, but here are a few things your child can do to make it less likely he or she will become a target of bullying:
Stay with friends - One of the best preventive measures against bullying is developing good friendship skills. Not only does this improve a child's overall self-concept, but when a child is with other kids--especially if there aren't adults around-- it's less likely they will be bothered by bullying children.
Act confident - Teach your child to stand tall, holding his head up as he walks, and to look people in the eye when he talks.
Stay safe - Try not to be alone in potentially dangerous places such as locker rooms, rest rooms, or empty classrooms.
Ask for help – Teach your child to talk with you or ask a trusted adult at school for help if he or she doesn't know how to handle a situation.
What to do if your child bullies other children
Let your child know that bullying is never OK - Make it clear to your child that under no circumstances is mistreating another person either physically or verbally ever acceptable.
Be a positive role model for your child - You are the most important teacher your child will ever have. Children learn by example from adults. Be sure to teach your child how to treat others with respect by how you act and speak. Teach your child to be accepting of other people regardless of ethnic background, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
Spend more time with your child - Make spending good quality time with your child a high priority. Get to know who your child is, what his interests are, and have fun with your child.
Help your child understand how other people feel - Kids who bully have a hard time with being empathic-understanding how others feel. Talk about feelings and ask questions like "How did you feel when that happened...?" "How do you think the other person might have felt after that happened...?"
Cooperate with the school - Though your first reaction may be shock, anger, or denial that your child would ever bully another child, remember that your child's school is trying to help your child. By cooperating with the school, you will be helping your child to become a happier, more well-adjusted person.
Some facts about bullying...
- Bullying is one of the most underrated and serious problems in schools today.
- Verbal bullying--what is so benignly called teasing--is so common that even many adults consider it to be a natural part of growing up. Yet this form of emotional abuse is a major contributor to school violence.
- Bullying is most intense during the upper elementary and middle school years.
- Most bullying occurs in or around school buildings.
- Both targets and children who bully suffer significant emotional, behavioral, and underachievement problems.
- 22% of fourth through eighth graders report academic problems due to bullying.
- The National Association of School Psychologists and the U.S. Department of Justice estimate that 160,000 students miss school every day because they are in fear of being bullied.
- Boys are more likely to bully physically, and girls are more likely to use taunts and spread rumors.
- There is little, if any, difference between bullying in suburban, rural, or inner city schools.
- 14% of students experience severe reactions to bullying that may have lifelong psychiatric consequences.
- By age 24, 60% of children who bully will have had a criminal conviction.
- Possibly the best way to reduce school violence is to effectively reduce or stop bullying in schools.
Bullying--which includes verbal and physical abuse, social alienation, and intimidation by peers--can be decreased by effective and consistent school-wide bullying awareness and prevention programs.
The Grouchy Ladybug, E. Carle
Oliver Button Is a Sissy, T. dePaola
Dealing with Bullying, M. Johnston
Secret of the Peaceful Warrior, D. Millman