What is Bullying
The latest, official definition of Bullying stated by the, the federal government: “. . .any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. “1 But in the real world the issue of bullying is one that is multi-faceted and complex. As a parent, I try and explain to my daughter that no one should ever try to make her feel or others feel bad on purpose. I encourage her that she should speak up if someone if saying something to her that doesn’t make her feel good about herself or others, though this is often easier said than done.
How you can help
It is hard as a parent to not want to go directly to the source of your child’s pain and fix it. But unfortunately you will not and cannot be your child’s defender for his or hers entire life. That is why it is important to teach them how to be aware of what is going on and how they can keep themselves and others safe.
Here are a few tips on how to prepare your child for the world of complex relationships and how to develop an open and honest relationship that will foster trust.
1. Understanding Bullying
Help your child understand exactly what bullying is. Since the word is used so often, many children may perceive a one-time joke as being bullied. In order for someone to be considered bullied or be a bully, the offense must be repeated or have the opportunity to be repeated. “Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose” with the intent of having power and control over them.
2. Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Although our children may not blurt out their entire day when we ask them, we as parents must be persistent and be open and available to when they are ready and willing to talk about their day. Being aware of any changed behaviors or attitude is also key to getting them to open up about anything that may be bothering them. Asking questions like, “what is lunch time like at your school? Who do you sit with? What do you talk about?” or “what is it like to ride the school bus?” Or direct questions about bullying can also bring out any issues that may be occurring, such as “Have you or your friends left other kids out on purpose? Do you think that was bullying? Why or why not?”, “What do you usually do when you see bullying going on?” Children actually need and seek the support from adults, so it is our responsibility to be there if they need it.
3. Encourage Kids to Do What they Love
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest helping “..kids take part in activities, interests, and hobbies they like. Kids can volunteer, play sports, sing in a chorus, or join a youth group or school club. These activities give kids a chance to have fun and meet others with the same interests. They can build confidence and friendships that help protect kids from bullying.”
4. Model Kindness and Respect
They best way to teach your child on how to be respectful and kind, is for you as a parent to treat others with respect and kindness. Your child is watching and learning everything from you. It is important for them to know that although you may come across individuals with different opinions and ideas, that everyone has a right to express them and should not be punished for doing so. And that sometimes, when things are getting a little aggressive and are not in line with your own personal beliefs that it is ok to walk away.
For more information on how you can help your child and prevent Bullying please visit StopBullying.gov.
1 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Education, 2014