Bullying is defined as someone intending to seek harm, intimidate, or coerce someone perceived as vulnerable. Simply put, bullying is picking on someone you believe is beneath you.
There are also many forms of bullying from verbal, physical, mental, emotional, cyber, and more. All of them generally impact the person being bullied the same way, which is feeling lower than they were before.
For this topic, I didn’t want to go into detail about how to speak to your child about not bullying, etc. I can only hope that bullying isn’t something encouraged by parents and issues like this are being addressed and handled properly at school. Most times then not, parents are told from a young age “treat others the way you want to be treated.” It is simple, straight to the point. If you want kindness, be kind.
But that’s the thing. The saying just encourages the child to be kind. If you really thought about it, that saying could apply to all emotions and actions. If you treat someone with anger, you will also be treated with anger. If you treat someone with disrespect, you also will receive disrespect. What do you think?
I don’t believe that always applies.
I believe bullying occurs because the child (I will speak mainly for children since bullying really starts from a young age) isn’t taught to properly act towards a bully. If a bully picks on a child, most times the child doesn’t know how to respond. They are seen as vulnerable and defenseless, and then the bully continues the harassing until eventually they find someone else to bully.
It’s an endless cycle, and unfortunately bullying is not coming to an end soon. As I have mentioned in my other blog posts, humans are generally inclined to judge. It is in our nature to make an initial judgement before getting to know someone. It is how humans protect themselves.
But in children, bullying comes from a child having no filter or teaching that tells them “What I am about to say is not necessary and mean.” Children are quick to express what they are thinking and feel with no worry of consequences.
In school, a child will bully and most times an adult isn’t present around them to quickly correct their behavior. So, bullying will not come to an end any time soon unless immediate action is taken and held accountable for their behavior. But I believe teaching the correct way to handle a bully will significantly decrease the bullying that occurs in general.
First, a parent should most definitely educate their child about bullying at an age they feel appropriate. Teach them to not bully, and that they should treat their friends and classmates with respect and kindness. Parents, it’s also your responsibility to teach them to NOT to be a BYSTANDER and stand up for others. Understand, however, when you tell this to your child you should 100% stand by what you are saying and demonstrate respect and kindness at home. Remember, it all begins at home. If you tell your child to be nice, but the household environment is chaotic, the behavior will not stick, and your child may not feel the need to be kind.
Second, the environment for which your child is raised is crucial to ensure bullying doesn’t occur, or your child doesn’t do the bullying. Most cases, a child bullies to release frustrations and anger that comes from a stressful home. This is a behavioral mechanism that a child does to protect themselves, and because they don’t feel safe and have an outlet to properly relieve the stress they are feeling.
No matter what is occurring in the house, don’t let it affect your child. Keep work, and personal business outside of your child. They deserve to feel safe and grow up in an environment that nurtures their growth emotionally, physically, and mentally. This will allow them to be happy and therefore have no reason to bully.
Third, teach your child how to handle a bully but appropriately. And how I mean handle is not bullying back or getting physical. But rather, how to properly speak back and report the bully. Unfortunately for kids, “snitching” doesn’t give a lot of brownie points. Snitching, or “telling” for parents who may not understand the lingo, often causes the child to be bullied more since they are no longer trustworthy amongst their peers.
But this is where teaching your child how to properly handle a bully is important. Let them understand that backing down from a bully will not always stop the bully. If they feel they are in danger, or feel threatened in any way, tell them the first thing they should do is speak to an adult. Let them know that their teacher can be someone who they can turn to. If the child doesn’t feel comfortable, let them know that they can go to the front office and speak with the counselor or even phone home. Parents, respond, don’t react. Collect the information and talk as a family to find a solution.
The important message with going to an adult is that the child is not alone to fend for themselves. They are allowed to ask for help, and the help can come from the form of a trusted adult, whoever it may be. If the child finds themselves calling you during school hours, take it seriously and if necessary, remove the child from the situation so they are not overwhelmed.
Afterwards, speak to the teacher to let them know immediately. The teacher, if trained properly, will normally speak to the child by themselves when the other students are distracted to get the full idea and then handle the bully from there.
Let’s say the adult method doesn’t work, or the child doesn’t want to go to an adult for help. Encourage them to stand up to the bully. Do NOT encourage aggressive behavior or mimicking the bully. That will not lead to anything, and in fact almost make your child feel like the bully themselves. Instead, encourage them to tell the bully what they are saying is not nice and that if they continued their behavior they will go to an adult.
Now what this does is draws attention to the bully for the behavior. Most bullies don’t hear about their behavior and how it affects a student. Most times they do it for their own pleasure, but that form of embarrassment can deter them from continuing the bullying. Also emphasizing that an adult will be notified of the bullying can also encourage the behavior to stop since it is now taken far more seriously than it was before.
Give your child the resources to properly handle a bully. I will include some sources below on how to handle a bully, and bully prevention. This month is about Bullying and Domestic Violence awareness. We all can play a role to reduce these forms of violence, one step at a time.