Bullying has many different forms. It might be name-calling or teasing, hitting or shoving, spreading rumours or excluding others. If you feel your child might be affected by bullying, there are ways you can help.
Always keep an open line of communication with your child, and make sure you are able to spend some one-on-one time together to talk about his day.
Children who are bullied are often too embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid to talk about it. If your child is comfortable talking with you already, then it is a little easier to open up about something difficult.
If your child confides in you that she has been the target of bullying, take her concerns seriously. Let her tell you what happened and how it made her feel, without pressuring her for details.
Then help her plan and practise several ways she can respond if another situation arises. Some ideas might include:
Give a short response and walk away. “Don’t talk to me like that.” “I don’t need this.” “Whatever.” “I won’t let you bully me.” “Stop.” Let your child choose a phrase he is comfortable with and practise saying it confidently and assertively. Let him know that is all he has to say, and then he can turn and walk away.
Avoid the bully. Sometimes it is easier to simply go the other way and avoid contact with the person who has been causing trouble.
Stay with friends. Suggest your child try to stay in a group while playing outside or walking home. Bullies are more likely to pick on someone who is alone.
Ask for help. Your child needs to know she can go to a grownup for help. Thank her for sharing her experience with you and assure her that she can also talk to her teacher, coach or other adults in charge if she is being bothered by a bully.
While many children will experience bullying, virtually all children are witnesses to it at some point. Teach your child the importance of standing up against bullying.
Don’t pay attention to a bully. Laughing, joining or just watching a bully pick on someone encourages the behaviour to continue. Let your child know that he can speak up in defence of the bully’s target.
Give a friend an excuse to get away from the bully. If your child sees someone being bullied, she can call her over. “Come play soccer with us!” “I’m going for a walk, will you come with me?” This gives the other child the opportunity to get away without directly confronting the bully.
Get others to help. As soon as one person steps forward, it is easier for other children to follow. There is strength in numbers if a group of children stand together. If the bully persists, your child needs to know he can get help from an adult in charge. Your child should know to never put himself in harm’s way.
Bullying is not a problem that will go away if it is ignored. Make sure you child knows ways to respond when she or someone else is targeted by a bully. More children and adults need to take a stance and refuse to tolerate bullying if we are to make our communities safer and friendlier for all.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers parenting information and support.
» 255 Ninth St., Brandon
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 14, 2013