It happens at every school: About a third of children are be bullied sometime during their school years. Whether they're the victim, the perpetrator, or a bystander, it's something almost all kids have to face. Do you and your child have a plan for how to deal with bullying?
It's been on my mind since reading The Great Brain with my son. In that story of three brothers growing up in rural Utah in the 1890s, you deal with bullies by learning to out-fight them. The end. That's not going to work here in the 21st century! Now we have to resolve those conflicts very differently. Find out what you need to know to protect your child and help create a safe school environment this year.
1. Get ahead of the game. Sometimes kids are reluctant to report bullying because they're embarrassed or confused or don't have the words to describe what's happening to them. Have a conversation with your child about what bullying is before the school year starts. Make sure they understand they will have your support if they feel threatened by another child at school -- and that this is not something they simply have to endure.
2. Find out your school's policy. What are your school's rules? Who do you report bullying behavior to? What is your school's history with dealing with bullies? Do they have an anti-bullying program?
3. Know your anti-bullying strategies. There are many ways to handle a bully. KidsHealth.com lists several: Build up your self esteem, stick with a buddy, ignore the bully wherever possible, use a loud, strong voice to tell the bully to stop, don't bully back, learn to control your emotions and not react, and tell an adult. (And if that adult doesn't do anything, find another, and another, until you find someone who will.) It helps if your child knows what to do BEFORE a bullying incident.
4. Introduce an anti-bullying program. If your school doesn't already have a program or even a plan for handling bullies suggest a few. Find other parents who feel it should be a priority to help you. Research shows that anti-bully programs can be effective, but some programs are better than others. Many are variations of the Olweus Program. Ask around through your own network of friends and family to see what programs and policies have worked well.
5. Make sure your own kid doesn't bully. No parent wants to believe that their own child is capable of terrorizing another child. But kids have a way of surprising you -- sometimes in disappointing ways. When you talk about bullying with your child make sure they understand what actions are considered bullying, and that these actions are unacceptable, even if their friends are doing the same thing.
Have you talked with your children and school about bullying?
Image via wsilver/Flickr