What Can You Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied? Read on.
Bully: A blustering, browbeating person…one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable. (Merriam Webster)
You may wonder, “Is my child being bullied?” More than one out of every five students report being bullied. Everyone can recall some point in their lives when they’ve been bullied. It’s almost a rite of passage. For years, parents and educators dismissed it as normal. It’s happened since the beginning of time. Often, they would even tell a bullying victim not to make themselves so vulnerable.
Today, things are different. Thanks to high profile school shooting, educators take a new attitude towards it. They’ve designed programs teaching children how to treat each other. Many schools have also implement zero-tolerance bullying programs, with those caught harassing another student face suspension or worse.
While these are minor victories, bullying still continues to occur. Many times, children will not share events with their parents or teachers for fear of retaliation or being labeled a “snitch” or “tattler”. So they choose to suffer in silence. They feel that something must be wrong with them because they are victims.
Do you suspect your child is a victim of bullying? What can you do to help?
What is Bullying?
At the outset, we included Merriam-Webster’s definition of bullying. Anyone who is repeatedly cruel to another person is a bully. If someone does or says something hurtful, and you let them know you don’t like it, they should stop. If they continue their actions without considering your feelings, they are bullying. Even if they pass it off as a “joke”, it’s bullying.
It takes many different forms. These include:
- Physical (hitting, kicking, pushing, etc)
- Verbal (threats, name-calling, teasing)
- Emotional (Social exclusion, cruel gestures)
- Sexual a.k.a. sexual harassment (inappropriate sexual jokes, unwanted grabbing, brushing or otherwise sexual touching, repeatedly making advances after being rejected) Note: Victim or bully can be male or female
- Cyberbullying (online hate messages or threats, impersonation, or harassment)
- Hazing (humiliation and isolation of new members to a group or new students)
This topic is so broad here, we could write a book on the different types of bullying. There are far too many ways to hurt someone to list them all here. Sometimes, a bully may not realize they’re bullying. Usually, they do know what they’re doing. They enjoy the control and power they have over someone they perceive to be weaker than they are.
Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied
What are some signs your child is being bullied? Here are some ways you can tell.
- Seems anxious and suffers from low self-esteem
- Is moody or sad when returning home from school
- Frequently looks for reasons not to go to school
- Grades drop without explanation or there’s a sudden loss of interest in school work
- Loss of appetite
- Has few, if any, friends
- Complains frequently of headaches or stomachaches
- Returns home with belongings missing, damaged, or destroyed
- Unexplained bruises, cuts, or scratches
While these are common signs of being bullied, they may also indicate other problems, especially physical symptoms. Rule out any other possibilities before jumping to conclusions.
What Can You Do When Your Child Is Being Bullied?
You suspect your child may be bullied.
Try a subtler approach. One that won’t put them on the spot, but also lets them know that you’re available to talk. If there’s a current events story about bullying, you may want to bring it up. Say something like “I just read this story about (event). Is bullying a problem at your school?”
Another approach is to find out more about their social life. Ask questions like, “Who do you sit with at lunch or on the bus? Is there anyone at school you don’t like? Why don’t you like them?” Asking open-ended questions invites conversation.
You could also make an appointment with your child’s teacher. During the meeting, ask questions such as:
- How does my child get along with other children in the class?
- Who does he or she spend most of their time with?
- Do you suspect my child may be bullied by other students?
Oftentimes, teachers are able to see things you can’t. They could be a great option for finding out what’s going on with your child. If the meeting with your child’s teacher doesn’t help, you can always try a school counselor or administrator.
What If The Teacher Is The Bully?
Yes, it’s very possible. Those who we entrust to keep our children safe may be the cause of their distress. According to an anonymous survey, 46% of teachers admitted to having bullied a student. Why would they do that?
A number of reasons. Many teachers are overworked and not paid what they deserve. This leads to frustration and burnout. They take out their job dissatisfaction
What would teacher-student bullying look like?
- Singling them out for punishment to ridicule
- Embarrassing them by yelling at them in front of others
- Public criticism of their work
- Making jokes at their expense
- Belittling or intimating them
Do’s And Don’ts For Fixing A Bully
If you learn your child is indeed being bullied, here’s a list of do’s and don’ts in moving forward.
- Don’t overreact. It’s best to approach the situation calmly.
- Don’t imply that it’s your child’s fault.
- Don’t confront the bully yourself. Lots of parents make this mistake. Unless your child’s bully is a teacher or other caregiver, you should never confront a child. Let the school handle it.
- Don’t blame the teacher or administrators for not doing anything. They can’t be everywhere, they may not even know it’s happening. Children can be quite sneaky.
- Don’t encourage your child to “fight back”. They shouldn’t sink to the bully’s level.
- Don’t ignore or make light of the situation. Even if you don’t think it’s a big deal, chances are it’s a big deal to your child. Let them know they have your support.
- Do communicate with the school. Approach your child’s teachers and/or administrators about your concerns immediately.
- Do empower your child. Let them know with your help you will conquer the situation.
- Do follow-up. Follow up with the school and your child to make sure preventative measures are implemented.
- Do have realistic expectations. It may not stop immediately, but it will stop. Continue to give your child the support they need.
Bullying affects boys and girls alike. As a parent, when your child hurts, you hurt. If you think your child is being bullying, you can take appropriate steps to stop it.