Bullying is a word that gets tossed around a little more easily than I would like. It is not a joke or a punchline. As an educator, I was always hypersensitive to the undercurrent in my classes. Viewing it as an educator is very different from viewing it as a parent, but the goal is still the same. The goal is always to protect the victim and resolve the issue. Here are some of my thoughts on bullying and what you can do if your child is a victim.
I’m going to be straight here and tell you that children who are bullies come from households where bullying is permitted. They may be victims of an older sibling’s bullying or they may be permitted to behave in a way that is aggressive. Many times, the parents of these children are bullies themselves.
Make no mistake that the parents of bullies may not be receptive to solving the issue. These parents may be largely exclusive, engage in hate speech, or make demands aggressively. When children see this kind of behavior from their parent or guardian, it becomes difficult for them to see this behavior as wrong.
Tip: Whenever possible, steer clear of parents whose values do not match up with your own.
Physical bullying is the most easily identifiable because of marks or bruises on the child. However, there are other types of bullying such as hate speech, name calling, exclusion, and cyber-bullying. These are much more insidious and dangerous. Children and teens are much less likely to reveal this type of bullying out of fear and embarrassment. Tweens and teens are even more susceptible because of the issue of privacy. If they are on a social media platform without your permission or doing something you have forbidden, they will not tell you about it so as not to risk making matters worse due to punishment.
Tip: Pay close attention to changes in behavior or friendships. These can indicate signs of bullying.
Don’t Ignore it:
So many parents are quick to tell their kids, “just ignore it,” when they hear of harassment or name calling. This is NOT good advice. Telling your child to ignore threats and name calling is telling them that their problem is insignificant. While our first reaction might be to run to the phone to call school, be aware that a course of action like this might terrify your child. They do not wish to be considered a “rat” or a “snitch” but it is important to let the school know. If you have the ability to do so, talk to other parents and friends of your child who might be able to corroborate the story. It is much easier to approach the school if they don’t see it as a “he said/she said” story. Multiple perspectives are always helpful. There is safety in numbers.
If you find yourself in this situation, document everything. Be sure to put names and dates on each story that your child reveals and send each account to your child’s school. Be sure to let them know that you need the issue resolved as quickly as possible and ask them to be transparent about the steps they are taking to ensure your child’s safety. In most cases, schools are not able to reveal anything about another student, but you will be able to tell if your child is feeling safe. If you do not see any change within a reasonable amount of time, continue to contact the appropriate personnel. Be relentless in seeking safety for your child and do not stop until that safety is achieved.
Don’t be afraid to speak up! Bullies thrive in fear and secrecy. The more people that know about the situation, the better. Teach your child that bullying is NOT OKAY, even if it isn’t happening to them. If they don’t stand up for a fellow classmate then they are part of the problem. Teach kindness, teach empathy, and most importantly, teach them that their voice is their most powerful weapon.
Mom, wife, educator, and loyal friend. Passionate about all things reading and writing. Sharing parenting tips with an educator’s lens.