What can parents do to stop bullying? Research says: 90 percent of children in grades 3 to 6 say they have been bullied at some time. Read on for three simple tips you can use to address the problem.
When I was a kid, a bully terrorized you by physically hitting you or picking on you. At school, everyone knew who the bully was and who the victim was.
Today, those roles aren’t so clear.
Today, more kids are getting bullied online. Embarrassing photos can be spread to everyone in a classroom within minutes through cell phones and social networking sites. Kids today are also more likely to hide the fact that they’re being picked on because they fear getting harassed even more if they tell.
Researchers in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics have found that almost 90 percent of children in grades 3 to 6 say they have been bullied at some time, and almost 60 percent of the same age group admit that they’ve bullied another child. As kids try to figure out how to interact appropriately with their peers, they’re going to cross the line. Some will cross the line toward bullying while others will cross the line toward being bullied.
So what can parents DO about bullying?
First, we need to pay attention to what’s happening with our kids! We need to help them figure out how to interact with their peers and what to do when they’re tempted to harass another child (or what to do if they are being harassed).
1. Be a SAFE Sounding Board: As a parent, I’ve always told my kids that I was a safe person to tell: I wouldn’t run immediately to the school (or the parents of the bully). I would listen, and we would work together to find solutions. Most of the time, we figured out responses for my child to do on his own and in his own way. In more severe cases, however, it’s important to ask for help from a school counselor, social worker, or teacher. One of our friends got the school police involved since the bullying kept escalating.
2. Choose your words carefully: It can be helpful to avoid using the word “bullying” when approaching the topic. With my son, I’ve discovered that he enjoyed “teasing” or “harassing” his classmates. Most of the time, it was harmless, but he did admit that sometimes he crossed the line. We then talked about how he knew when he crossed the line and how to interact with kids in ways that built a relationship instead of tearing it down.
3. Be a spark supporter: One way we can address bullying is by helping our kids find their spark. A spark is an interest, talent, skill, or dream that excites a young person and helps him or her discover a true passion. When kids are learning a musical instrument, a sport, or getting involved in a club, they’re focusing on what matters to them. Yes, they’ll still need to interact with others, but they’ll be less likely to have a lot of time on their hands where they may be tempted to bully someone or get bullied by someone else.
Bullying is a serious issue. We shouldn’t tolerate any type of bullying, (no matter how small). While we can make it clear what we don’t want our kids to do (bully others), we can also be clear on what we want our kids to do: talk to us, treat others respectfully, and follow their interests.
1. Thomas P. Tarshis and Lynne C. Huffman, “Psychometric Properties of the Peer Interactions in Primary School (PIPS) Questionnaire,” Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 28 (2): 125-132, April 2007.
3. Photo Credit: Eddie~S via Flick’r