October is bullying prevention month. Unfortunately, bullying can happen any time and to anyone — from the youngest kids in day care all the way through high school or college. While nothing will totally stop bullying, here are some tips to help parents detect, prevent and deal with the problem.
1. Be your child’s go-to person. Make sure your child always feels safe telling you about incidents at school, in the neighborhood, or even at home. At the dinner table, some families share the best thing that happened during the day — and the worst. This helps everyone learn to appreciate when someone opens a door for them or plays with them. To illustrate that no one is exempt from bullying, other family members should share bad situations (when appropriate). Exploring how to handle the “bad” scenarios can offer teaching moments for children.
2. Parents, don’t be an inadvertent bully. If the parent is constantly saying things that make a child feel bad about themselves, this is form of bullying. You may hear yourself saying, “I know you can get better grades.” But the child may be hearing only, “I’m stupid and won’t ever be able to please anyone.” Listen to what you say to your child and make sure you aren’t behaving in a manner that would not be acceptable behavior from others.
3. Discuss what actions can be considered bullying. Help your child see that bullying can be words, actions, ignoring someone, giggling and pointing. Discuss ways to positively respond to each instance.
4. Welcome your child’s friends into your home. If any friends seem to have an unusual amount of power over your child, you may need to help your child see that this person is not a true friend.
5. Stop sibling bullying. If one child seems to have dominance over another child, sit down immediately and let them know that this behavior will NOT be tolerated. Make sure to follow through and discipline the bully. Also make sure the child being bullied feels safe in coming to you.
6. Discipline your children appropriately if you see them doing or saying (or texting) something that you don’t consider kind. That way others — teachers, other parents or day care workers — don’t have to become the disciplinarian.
7. Help your child think of ways to react to bullying. For instance, if they are being teased about wearing glasses, perhaps there is a phrase they use to make the other person think twice about making such comments again. Taking steps to change things, or practicing ways to react to mean comments, will make a child feel ready to stand up for themselves.
8. Understand cyber-bullying. The internet is one of the newest arenas where a child can feel helpless against what is being said or shown in pictures about them. Make sure to carefully monitor screen time in a way that feels protective but not intrusive. The more conversations you have with your kids about what occurs online, the more likely they will be able to talk to you about what’s going on.
9. Learn the latest lingo. This includes verbal, texting and online slang. Do you know that CD9 means parents are around and that 99 means parents have left? Your child may be hiding something.
10. Remember the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is great advice. A friend’s child was having trouble on the school bus with one boy. The mom suggested that this child might not know the right way to be a friend. So the child being bullied went out of his way to be extra nice to the bully. Once the bully realized there was a different way to act, the two children became real friends.
–Courtesy of Thomas Weck, a national award-winning author of children’s books, including the popular Lima Bear Stories Series (limabearpress.com).