Bullying has become a tidal wave of epic proportions. Although bullying was once considered a rite of passage, parents, educators, and community leaders now see bullying as a devastating form of abuse that can have long-term effects on youthful victims, robbing them of self-esteem, isolating them from their peers, causing them to drop out of school, and even prompting health problems and suicide.
A recent study by the CDC, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System
, indicated that at least 20% of children in grades 9-12 were bullied in the year before the study was conducted. Witnessing bullying can be harmful, too, as it may make the witness feel helpless - or that he or she is the next target.
Children who are bullied are often singled out because of a perceived difference between them and others, whether because of appearance (size, weight, or clothes), intellect, or, increasingly, ethnic or religious affiliation and sexual orientation.
And bullying can be a gateway behavior, teaching the perpetrator that threats and aggression are acceptable even in adulthood. In one study by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids
, nearly 60 percent of boys whom researchers classified as bullies in grades 6-9 were convicted of at least one crime by the age of 24, while 40 percent had three or more convictions.
- Take complaints of bullying seriously. Do not dismiss your child or expect your child to work through the situation alone.
- Praise your child for reporting bullying situations to you and assure your child you will take action.
- Talk to your child’s teacher, counselor, or other caregiver about reports of bullying. Work together to address the bullying situation. Don’t confront the parents of the bully directly.
- Ask your child specific questions about how your child is treated by peers, who he or she eats lunch with, and how other children are treated.
- Teach your child to be assertive. Your child should be able to express feelings and needs clearly, without shouting or other aggressive behavior.
- Provide opportunities for your child to make friends. Identify some of your child’s interests and encourage your child to pursue them through sports, clubs, or other group activities.
- Teach your child to identify bullying behaviors. These include hitting, damaging possessions, threatening, name calling, excluding someone from the group, spreading rumors, and embarrassing others.
- Teach your child strategies for managing bullying. If bullied, your child can walk away, tell the bully to stop, avoid the bully, or tell and adult.
- If your child sees someone else being bullied, he or she can help the victim walk away, invite the victim over to play or eat lunch, tell the bully to stop picking on someone, or tell and adult.
- Tell your child that you do not tolerate bullying behavior. If you learn that your child has been bullying others, work with your child’s teacher, counselor, or other caregiver to end the bullying.
- Be a positive role model. Avoid using threats or aggression when disciplining your child or when interacting with other adults.