Handling Bullies

When my third grade daughter witnessed a fight at recess the other day, she was mystified and mortified. She couldn’t understand why the bully would want to hurt the other boy, and face the punishment he quickly received because my daughter and her friends called the recess aid to break it up.

We all remember bullies from our own childhood and there is one in every kids movie. The playground bully is still a big part of our children’s school experience. Bullying is intentional cause of pain. It can include hitting, shoving, name calling, threats, mocking, extorting money and treasured possessions. But bullying is not limited to physical violence or threats.

Some kids bully by shunning others and spreading rumors about them. Bullies now have new tools to cause hurt feelings. E-mail and text messaging can be used to spread gossip and taunt others at lightening speed.

Because bullying has been around so long, it can be tempting to shrug it off as just a part of childhood. Though it is something your child will have to deal with, it is important to help your child understand it is a situation that requires action. Bullying can affect on your child’s self-esteem and future relationships. In severe cases, bullying has led to serious tragedies.

Sometimes children are afraid to tell parents about bullying because of threats from the bully, embarrassment, or worries about what parents will say. It is important to know the warning signs that your child is being bullied.

You may notice your child acting differently or seeming anxious. If he starts avoiding certain places or situations, like taking the bus to school, it may be because of a bully.

If your child tells you about a bully, focus on offering her comfort and support. Let them know it is not her fault. Assure her that lots of people get bullied at some point and that together you will figure out what to do.

You may want to discuss these tips with your child before bullying starts, so that he will know what to do when the time comes.

  • Always tell an adult. Even if you are a witness and not a victim, it is important to let someone in authority know. Try to remember where it takes place, who does the bullying, and when does it happen. Give as much detail as possible. Telling doesn’t make you a tattle-tale, it makes you a leader in standing up against bullying.
  • Avoid the bully and use the buddy system. Take a friend with you places where you are likely to encounter the bully, recess, in the bathroom, the lunchroom or on the bus. You don’t want to be alone with the bully.
  • Hold your anger, act brave and walk away. It’s natural to get upset, but that is what the bully wants. Firmly tell the bully to stop and then walk away. Practice your “poker face”. Try not to react by crying, yelling or looking upset. Smiling or laughing may also provoke the bully.
  • Remove any incentives. If the bully wants your music player, game boy or lunch money, don’t bring it to school.
  • Get together with good friends who build you and others up instead of tearing down. Join a variety of clubs or a sports teams to meet people with your same interests. This will broaden your support group to help combat a bully.

For more information on how to handle bullying, visit Stop Bullying Now!