Now that your children are back in school full-swing, it's the perfect time to discuss bullying. Chances are that sometime during your child's school years they will either be bullied or (gasp!) be a bully. Teaching your children what bullying is, the qualities inherent in a bully, why they could become a victim and how to protect themselves is essential. Unfortunately, my son experienced bullying first hand last year. It was a very traumatic event -- not only for him, but my husband and myself as well. So, we know firsthand how much of an impact bullying can have on a child. This year, he entered middle school, and we really wanted to ensure that he understood bullying. We answered all of the questions that he had in an effort to help him feel more comfortable standing up for himself and others. Read on to discover the questions my son asked, and to gain valuable insight into how to discuss bullying with your own children.
Question #1: What Is A Bully?
A bully is a person who hurts, scares, teases, manipulates, or harasses someone on a repeated basis. Their sole goal is to make that person feel scared, sad, alone and depressed. They may spread rumors, threaten to violently hurt, purposely exclude, damage property, tease, purposefully ignore in front of others, encourage other children to gang up on or force someone to do something that they do not want to do. Bullying can even come in the form of cyber-bullying, where a bully will use technology to bully someone else.
Question #2: Who Can Be A Bully?
Regardless of age, size, status, income, ethnicity, or popularity, anyone can be a bully – even adults can be bullies. Most bullies feel badly about themselves and have low self-esteem, they may be over-privileged and feel they are superior to others, or are bullied at home by their own parents or by a sibling. Or they may have been a victim of bullying in the past.
Question #3: Why Do Some Children Bully?
Some kids may bully because they have been bullied themselves, think it makes them look cool, think it will make them immune from being bullied, or want to feel superior to others.
Question #4: Why Would A Bully Pick On Me?
When a bully is looking for a victim, they will usually seek out someone who is different. If they view someone as looking different, having a disability, or as being smaller or weaker, they may pray on those people.
Question #5: How Can I Protect Myself?
There are many things that you can do to protect yourself from a bully. Start by helping your child create a strong friend circle and encourage him/her to stay with a group of friends whenever possible. It is much harder for a bully to bully an entire group of children. Remind your child to stay calm and collected if they are being bullied, a bully will only feed off their emotions. If your child cries, yells or fights back physically, it can make the bullying worse. Encourage your child to speak up. They need to immediately tell a teacher, recess monitor, friend, and/or parent that the bullying is happening. Talking is an essential tool in making the bullying stop.
Question #6: What If I Don’t Get Bullied This Year – Why Does This Matter To Me?
This is a good time to discuss how your child can stop bullying from happening to others. Advise him/her that if they do witness bullying, there are things they can do to help. They can tell a teacher or counselor, they can encourage a group of innocent bystanders to stand up for the victim, and they can be there for the victim as a friend. When children are bullied, they can feel very alone and isolated. Having just one friend that will be there by their side can make a huge impact!
Has your child been bullied or been a bully? What advice do you have to share?