No parent wants to have a child who becomes a target for a bully. Luckily there are things you, as a parent, can do now to bully-proof your kid.
A recent study in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that authoritative parents help to keep their children from becoming victims, authoritative parenting being defined as:
... parents who provide warmth and support to their children, while maintaining their authority and keeping the lines of communication open ...
While we can do our best to maintain open communication with our child and create a strong sense of self-esteem, bullying is just not what it used to be before the dawn of Facebook.
When your mom or dad told you to stand up for yourself, it was usually to a bully who shoved you on the playground. Today bullying can be relentless and insidious; even seeping into your home life via text messages and social networking accounts.
Your child may not come home with a black-eye, tipping you off that someone is causing them harm. And the perpetrator is more likely to be the homecoming queen, rather than the overgrown kid with big brothers who constantly beat him up.
In the age of cyberbullying, we have to look for different signs that our kid is in trouble. Here are three ways to tell if your child is getting bullied, and three things to do to help your child fight back against his attackers.
How to Spot Bullying:
If your bubbly kid is suddenly sullen, it's time to get to the bottom of things. Yes, adolescents can be moody, but a major change in demeanor means something is not right in her world -- and she's not telling you what's causing her pain. Find out.
Lack of friends
If your child isn't a "joiner" or doesn't have friends she regularly talks with, she may be the perfect target for a bully. Whether it's her personality or she's been brow beaten into staying away from school activities due to bullying, you need to have an open dialogue about her choice to stay home from every extracurricular event. She doesn't have to join the glee club, but you need to know if she's struggling with this status or not.
Loses personal belongings
If you've had to replace his backpack and cell phone or he complains that he didn't have lunch, you may have a victim of bullying on your hands. Yes, it's possible you simply have a forgetful kid, but communicating about anything that seems odd -- like torn clothing, repeatedly -- will help you know if it's a problem, or a trait he inherited from his father.
How to Fight Back:
No private computer/text time
Hopefully you're already monitoring your child's time on screens. Whether it's by employing the "computer in the family room only" method or limits on the number of texts and strict in-house rules, you need to know what's going on with your kid online. You don't have to hack into their email account, but knowing their passwords and checking in on their Facebook account should be part of your parenting strategy. Of course, your kids should know you have that access, so it's a given rather than a betrayal of trust.
Take it seriously
In the past bullying has been blown off as "just kids," but as we've seen in many cyberbullying cases, the results can be deadly. A harmful email campaign can cause an enormous amount of damage to your child. There are even laws in place to punish minors for these acts in various states. If your child even hints that something may be happening to him at school or online, get to the bottom of it immediately. Additionally, as the Cyberbullying 101 piece offers, teach your child to behave in a positive manner when interacting in person or virtually by remembering the mantra, Be Kind Online.
Know when to step back
Even though you need to be informed and must step in at times, giving your kid the tools to take care of herself will not only help her fight back against bullies, but prepare her for a very successful life. If she needs coaching on what to say to the girl in English class who whispers under her breath every time she raises her hand, role play with her until you both feel she's confident and clever.
Remember, bullies like an easy target, don't let your child go down without a fight.
Has your child been a victim of bullying?
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