Learn how to deal with bullying at your son's or daughter's school.


What to do about bulliesCredit: Bigstockphoto: gemenacomSchool bullying goes beyond the normal childhood social challenges. It can have profound and negative effects on the well-being of a child. And bullying doesn’t always stop with the end of the school day. Technological advances have given kids new tools to bully with that were not availabe 20 or even 10 years ago. With cell phones, texting, and social websites, your child may be bullied from a schoolmate even when inside his own home.  A child who is repeatedly harassed, picked on, or even physically hit by a schoolmate, is being bullied. This is abuse and the victim needs his parents help to make it stop.

Is Son or Daughter Being Bullied? Listen to Your Child.

If your child feels he is being harassed at school and this is causing him emotional and physical distress, then he is being bullied. Do not brush off what your child says as just part of growing up. Give your child your full support, empathize with him, and assure him that you will work with him to make the bullying stop.

Immediate Steps Your Child Can Take

The first step is to give your child skills he can take back to school the next day to deal with the bully. Many anti-bullying organizations, such as Bullying.org, recommend that the bully be simply ignored. Neither your child, nor you, should engage with or respond to the bully in anyway. Teach your child to simply walk away if at all possible. Also, staying in groups with friends or adults at school will help protect your child from the bully’s attention.

If the bullying extends beyond the schoolyard through technology, then restrict the bully’s access to your child. Change your child’s cell phone number, disable texting, make Facebook or other social media settings private, and monitor your child’s emails and other internet communications. Do not allow your child to respond to any emails or other messages from the bully. If the bully does not have access to your child through texting and social media then he can’t bully your child at home. The restrictions should extend to any friends of the bully who help give the bully access to your child through cyberspace.

Finally, encourage your son or daughter to keep a journal and document every bullying incident. This will help your child work through the abuse and give him some control over the situation. It will also give you and your child documentation of the bullying when working with school administrators or the police if necessary.

Meet with the Principal

Keeping children safe at school is the school administration’s responsibility. The first step you need to take is to meet with the principle of your child’s school. Prepare yourself for the meeting by becoming familiar with the school district’s policies regarding safety and bullying at school. These policies are usually found on the school district and individual school websites. At the meeting, get detailed information as to what steps the principal and school administrators will be taking to enforce the policies and make school a safe place for your child and others. Schedule a follow up meeting to review the progress that has been made. Do not be afraid to assertively advocate for your child. You will be protecting your child, and other possible victims at the school, as well as demonstrating for your child how to effectively stand up for himself.  

Take an advocate with you to the school meetings to take notes and help you remember important points to discuss. An advocate can be anyone from a close friend to a medical professional. This will help you feel less stressed during the meetings and show the school administration that you are to be taken seriously.

Become Involved in the School

The fact that your child is being bullied indicates an atmosphere of acceptance at all levels of the school. Bullies do not tend to act alone or in secret. Other kids know that your child is being bullied and are either unwilling, or do not have the skills, to help make it stop. It’s even possible that teachers and school administrators have seen the bullying but brushed it off as normal schoolyard play, or themselves don’t know how to effectively step in.

Bullying is a concern for the entire school and needs community involvement from students, parents, and teachers to make a cultural change within the school. Recognize that the bullying is not just affecting your child. Become involved by developing a school wide anti-bullying and education program. Collaborate with the principle, teachers, school counselors, and students to make bullying taboo and give all the kids and teachers the skills they need to prevent and stop bullying. The International Bullying Prevention Association and AntibullyingPrograms.org have resources for starting school anti-bullying programs.

Teach Your Child Resilience

In A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens, author Kenneth R. How to Deal with BullyingCredit: AmazonGinsburg discusses teaching children to be resilient when faced with adversity. Resilience is a valuable life skill that will not only help your child deal with a bully, but also give him strength and confidence so that being bullied is something he can move past with little consequences. 

Ginsburg mentions several life skills that will increase a child’s resilience. These include building confidence with well-deserved praise, having high but realistic expectations for your child, and developing strong positive connections with family, friends, and the community. If your child is being bullied, you can take steps to increase his resilience by helping him find opportunities where he can focus on a special interest, learn new skills, and make new friends. Encourage your child to volunteer or take a new class. Also, just be there for your child when he needs to talk. With this, you’ll be setting your child up to move past the bullying as an inconsequential event in his life.

Discovering that your child is being bullied at school can make any parent angry at the bully or even the bully’s family. However, directing that anger towards the bully is not likely to be productive or improve the situation for your child. Instead, recognize that bullying is a multifaceted problem that takes community-based multifaceted approaches to solve. At the same time, remember your child who is at the center of the bully’s attention and work with him to learn the skills he needs to deal with the bully. How you help your child deal with bullying and how you respond to the bullying, will have a lasting impact on how your child handles extreme adversity throughout life.