Bullying is a topic that most people can relate to. Whether the bully or bullied, if not handled appropriately can project one into a cycle of abuse later on in adulthood. This information can make tackling the issue as a parent more daunting when your heart is already breaking watching your child be victimized.
There are physical, verbal, psychological, cyber, and even sexual types of bullying your child or adolescent may encounter while interacting with their social peers. A bully typically displays key elements like obtaining a power imbalance, an intent to harm, seeking victim's distress, and repeated successfully committed offenses that went unpunished can progress into violent and criminal actions later on in life. Both the perpetrator and the victim require positive reinforcement and guidance.
10 SAY: "Was it Bullying or Peer Conflict?"
Before a parent assumes that his or her child is being bullied or acting like a bully; it is wise to determine whether it was bullying or peer conflict. Peer conflict is when a child does not always insist on getting their way, if the children had legitimate reasons for disagreeing, they are willing to make a mutual "win-win" solution, they are able to de-escalate before becoming aggressive or violent. Children are prone to conflict with their peers, as they are still trying to navigate conflict resolutions and empathy skills. Allowing your child to communicate the scenario can help a parent determine the severity of the occurrence.
Targetted bullying is a very serious issue, which is why it is important to talk to your child often about their peers. A bully typically intends to harm other children, has frequent outbursts of aggression, derives pleasure or some sort of fulfillment of taking advantage of a victim's vulnerability, may lack emotional support at home, and don't seem to be bothered by consequences from their actions. With open communication, a parent can help their child label the signs of those who might be a bully.
9 DON'T SAY: "You're making yourself an easy target."
There are factors that could make a child more likely to be victimized by bullying. Children who lack social skills, conceivably a child who has difficulties (emotional, behavioral, or learning) may struggle to initiate or maintain friendships. Kids who are anxious, cry easily, or insecure may be easier targets for aggressive peers to pick on. Youth who are small in size or physically weaker and newcomers to a school who have yet to settle are more susceptible to bullying.
Authoritarian (Tough Love) parenting style can make a child internalize their emotions and become elusive with communication. By being aware of which parenting style you possess, you can maneuver successfully in coaching your child on how to process upsetting plights experienced in future circumstances.
8 SAY: "I've noticed some changes and wanted to check in to make sure everything was going okay."
Victims of bullying can be ashamed, sensitive, and embarrassed by being asked the question of whether or not they are being picked on. This can make it difficult (especially the older the child) to help resolve the issue when their guard is up, them not wanting to make the situation worse. However, having an empathetic approach while acknowledging behavioral or physical changes might make it easier for the child to not deny what is really going on.
Warning signs could include unexplained cuts, scrapes, bruises, frequent Nightmares, and stomach aches before bed or in the morning. Other symptoms worth noting including overtiredness despite an inability to sleep, evasiveness, angry outbursts or uncharacteristic behavior being displayed, increased fear of going to school, and frequent loss of property.
7 SAY: "I'm always here for you."
The most imperative statement a bullied child can hear is that they are not alone. It can be isolating being a victim of bullying, as those who get picked on tend to have fewer friends and are prone to be mocked by bystanders. A genuinely loving and supportive home environment plays a huge factor in open communication between child and parent.
Those who are bullied need to be reminded daily that they are loved by many and receive affection from those they care about. Also, a parent or family member who can relate to being bullied may help the child feel less guarded and vulnerable.
6 DON'T SAY: "All bullies are bad."
As much as it could be easy to demonize a bully, there could be devastating reasoning as to why a child may be a bully. Perhaps the home life of the child is poor, there could be major life changes occurring causing the child to act out, or they may have low-self esteem induced by trauma. Granted there are numerous reasoning as to why children bully, and despite it NOT being okay, there is always the potential to change. A child who bullies may require more positive adult interaction, assistance from a counselor, or guidance from an emotionally nurturing adult.
If your child is being bullied, it is wise to still regard the bully in an empathetic light. Unfortunately, certain bullied children are more likely to become bullies later on in life. If a child is constantly reminded that bullies are bad as a child he or she may develop a persona of being malicious and helplessly unable to correct the behavior, if imperious behavior ensues.
5 SAY: "Let's think of ways to deal with a bully, together."
A child may defer from confiding in a parent about being bullied until it is too late because they fear that parental involvement will make the tormenting worse; by the bully or from peers that hear of the interference and tease your child for being "weak". This conflict of information, by getting help or trying to resolve the matter independently to avoid further humiliation, can make your child feel afraid of making decisions. Once your child is able to share the struggle of dealing with the abuse, be mindful of their independence by discussing ways to tackle the issue.
You can suggest general responses like ignoring the bully, being forthright and upfront, asking for help from a trusted near-by adult. However, you might be surprised by what suggestions your child might come up with.
4 SAY: "Let's do something to remind you of how great you are."
Bullies are less likely to target children who are self-assured and confident, therefore empowering your child could be the single-handedly most powerful tool in your parenting toolbox to help overcome victimization. Understanding self-esteem and the methods to develop a strong sense of self can be empowering enough to make him or her gain confidence in dealing with the bully.
Doing activities that remind your child of his or her's positive attributes and strengths can do wonders in boosting mood and perspective of self. Having a way to express and channel their feelings in a productive manner is a great way to introduce practicing self-care when he or she is faced by stressors.
3 DON'T SAY: "You can/can't handle this on your own."
Unfortunately, despite being said in the best interest, saying a child can or can't handle being a victim of bullying can further escalate the severity of the issue. Bullying is always serious. Regardless of whether the repercussions are seen as bruises or blood, sudden decline in your child's mental health, or manifests years later; bullying requires parental or adult involvement. With a sensitive approach, the target requires involvement that doesn't further isolate him or her from peers as a primary focus.
Parents can coach their child at home through various scenarios while discussing ways to handle a bully. If adult witnesses bullying in person, it is important that the aggressor is dealt with in a no-nonsense approach. Bullies may wish to feel powerful amongst their peers, therefore setting a straight forward yet severe consequence can be enough to sway the approval of any bystanders. Once the situations to improve, the adult should positively reinforce the behavior.
2 SAY: "There's a light at the end of the tunnel."
Research shows bullying becomes socially disfavored around the end of maturity. Without being condescending, it can be reassuring for your child to hear that the situation is only temporary. Just like many life instances, although we go through hardships and misfortunes, each experience teaches us how to cope and persevere so future circumstances will not be as impactful as prior. A parent wouldn't want to patronize their child as they learn these life lessons. The mountain they are climbing might look different than what you climbed. However, it doesn't undervalue their attempt.
Parents can empathize while reassuring their child that they have the ability to conquer the situation. Emotional and mental strength comes with practice and dedication. However, it also blossoms by a complementary support system that acknowledges and convey the individual's progress. Ask your child if extra assistance, such as a counselor, may be beneficial.
1 DON'T SAY: "EVERYONE GETS BULLIED."
Not only can saying "everyone gets bullied" hinder communication but it can subliminally teach that this type of behavior is acceptable. Many regard bullying to be a physical confrontation among children, but it can be so much more than that. Some types can have permanent and devasting effects psychologically. These are the wounds that go unseen that are the most likely to gradually worsen.
Psychological bullying can be detrimental throughout childhood and adolescent years. During that time, your child is learning so many new things at once while still trying to master skills previously learned. Receiving constant humiliating peer criticism can affect how he/she views their self-worth and quality of life.