How to respond to bullying

No parent ever wants to hear that their child is being bullied or worse still, that they are doing the bullying; however, it happens even when we think our child isn’t capable of those acts. The best thing we can do is to be informed and learn the best ways to support them in either situation.

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What is Bullying?

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive (and passive aggressive), and potentially repetitive behavior among children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Some examples of bullying include someone intentionally attacking someone physically or verbally, spreading rumors, or making threats in person or through technology, or ignoring and intentionally isolating someone.

Signs your child is being bullied

  • Unexplainable injuries or lost/destroyed items
  • Looking for ways to avoid school or the activity where the bullying is happening-frequent illnesses
  • Low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, quick to anger or feeling of helplessness
  • Drop in grades
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmare
  • Sudden loss of friends or interests
  • Being the only one not invited to playdates, birthday parties or activities

Signs your child is bullying others

  • Becoming increasingly aggressive or getting in verbal/physical fights
  • Not accepting responsibility for their actions and blaming others
  • Becoming obsessively competitive and worrying about popularity and reputation
  • Having unexplained new money or items
  • Bad mouthing and saying mean things about friends or classmates
  • Leaving people out of activities

What to do if your child is being bullied?

The most important thing we can do is to be a listener; which lets your child know they are not alone and they deserve to be treated with respect.  Also, never make a child feel like they are to blame for being bullied.  Encourage your child not to retaliate, because this will reinforce the bullying behavior. Instead, discuss strategies on how to respond evenly and firmly. If the bullying is happening in a certain setting, reach out to the supervisors to let them know what is going on, how it is impacting your child, and determine how to solve it together.  It is often not helpful if the parent tries to deal with it himself or herself, as it can make the situation worse and your child may not feel comfortable discussing it in the future.  Support your child with positive encouragement and discussion to make them feel more confident about handling the situation. It might help your child if you discuss some of the reasons as to why people bully. For example the person doing the bullying might:

  • Be copying other people, and don’t know that this behavior is wrong
  • Not know how to be nice to other people
  • Might have a problem, and they think that making other people feel bad will make them feel better
  • Might not have anyone to talk about their problems to

What to do if your child is using bullying behavior?

Similar to when your child is being bullied, first talk with your child in a non-judgemental way.  Help them understand the negative behavior is not appropriate and won’t be tolerated. Some children may think they are just having fun.  Explore why your child might be bullying other children: how are they feeling, are they experiencing peer pressure to join in, are they being bullied by someone else?  Work with your child through role play, example and direct teaching what empathy, respect and compassion are as well as what your expectations and consequences are for this type of behavior.  Work with your child to create an action plan, discuss it with important role models in their school or community. Provide positive feedback as you work through this together, and understand it takes time to change behavior.

What to do if your child is a witness to bullying behavior?

Throughout their school experience, your child may witness bullying. You can talk with your child about what they have seen or have heard from peers.  Help them learn how to support a peer by listening and letting them feel as though they are not alone.  Also, teach your child to be a strong role model for empathy, respect and compassion.

Cyber bullying

With the advancements in technology and the increase of how it is used in our lives, children are now exposed to cyber bullying.  The challenge with cyber bullying is that it can continue even when your child is home.  It occurs through texts, emails, social media or messaging and is unwanted contact that can include threats, sexual harassment, inappropriate photos, lies or ridiculing someone.

Children must have rules and strict curfews with technology the same as they do with any other activities as they grow up. It is important for the parents to learn the technology so you know what your children are doing online.  Discuss safety rules online and inform your child about cyber bullying.

Resources

Some great resources are the following links.  They have action plans that you can use to work with your school, your child or a community member.  These resources also give additional tools, laws and policies and more resources for anyone experiencing, witnessing or struggling with bullying behaviors.