Bullying

Bullying among school-age children is more common than some adults realize. Bullying has expanded in recent years from pushing someone down on the playground to spreading malicious gossip by e-mail.

What about the idea that “"kids will be kids”"? Does bullying really matter? Researchers, and most parents, agree that it does.

You might wonder what counts as bullying. “"Matt Watson, a therapist with LDS Family Services, says a behavior can be called bullying ‘'when there’'s fear and intimidation or when someone says “'Stop,”' but the behavior continues. There’'s no acknowledgment of the victim’'s feelings.’' Bullying can make people feel worthless, friendless, and alone”" (Taylor 34).

“Bullying is different among boys and girls. Boys tend to be more physically aggressive, while girls are more likely to use insults, to exclude other girls, or to spread rumors about them” (Taylor 34).
Bullying can be separated into four main categories:

  • Relationship: exclusion from groups, gossip, etc.
  • Verbal: name calling, teasing, etc. It can also include threats and coercion.
  • Physical: pushing, fighting, and the threat of physical violence.
  • Cyber: e-mail, text messaging, messages on web sites such as MySpace, Blog sites, etc.

Why do some children get picked on?

Foster Cline and Jim Fay, authors of “Parenting with Love and Logic” explain that kids will often make fun of anyone or anything that is different. “"Unfortunately . . . being very pretty, very responsible, very kind or very sweet leads to standing out like a punching dummy, especially if the child doesn’t know how to roll with the nonsense”" (301).

When your child is a bully.

Surprisingly, your child may tell you. Often, younger children may think they are playing, or they are copying behavior they’'ve seen and think is OK.
When children are older, their bullying behavior may be reported to you by someone else. This is a teaching moment if there ever was one. Make your expectations clear and put consequences in place.

Teaching

Bullying is never OK. Teaching proactively with bullying means that we teach our children early and often how to be kind, how to identify bullying, and how to deal with it. As we do this we should include descriptions of all types of bullying, including verbal and cyber bullying. Role playing these behaviors will help children recognize them.
Even though the types of bullying may take on different forms today, parenting experts Foster Cline and Jim Fay make this suggestion: “"The advice of a generation ago for dealing with bullies is still valid today: give them a wide berth”" (301).
Bullies can hurt others, and staying away is one of the best options.

When your child is bullied.

Does your child avoid activities or friends they enjoyed previously? Has your child lost self-confidence? Is your child reporting being picked on?
Cline and Fay suggest one of the most valuable things we can do for a child who is bullied is to teach her that, “"teasing doesn’'t mean there is something wrong with him or her, but it’'s a problem the other child has”" (302).
If there is a threat of physical danger, you do need to step in. Otherwise, “"if the child is able to learn how to cope, it is better to help him or her learn to do so rather than intervening yourself”" (Cline and Fay 302).

Give your child some ideas on how to feel and act confident. You could role play these with your child. Remember that Cline and Fay suggest avoiding bullies if possible, and that can be a great tactic. Friends can also stick together to help avoid bullying.

Understanding basic principles and steps to take can help remove some of the emotion that is inevitable when you learn your child has been bullied.

As we interact with our children about the types of behavior they see among their peers, we may be surprised by the number of examples they can give you of bullying behavior.

Taking simple, proactive teaching steps with your child about how to deal with bullying can help him feel confident and in control.

Sources

Cline, Foster, and Jim Fay. Parenting Teens with Love and Logic. USA: Pinion Press, 2006.
Taylor, Rebecca M. “"How to Beat Bullying,”" New Era, Jun. (2004): 34–38.