Childhood is supposed to be a time for discovery, exploration, love, and learning as you navigate your brand-new world.
You spend your days learning how to be a functional member of society, how to communicate, and how to recognize your own emotions as well as those of the people around you. Every day is a new opportunity to gain knowledge and experiment, and many of us have lasting memories from this time that are the fulcrum of who we come to be as adults.
However, many children are faced with a problem that they do not know how to navigate: bullying. What’s more, is that many parents also have no idea how to navigate this situation and struggle to find an appropriate response or way to deal with this issue, leaving their children to feel even more lost.
Bullying is defined as repetitive, unwelcome, aggressive behavior in which a child or teen exploits a real or perceived power imbalance to control or injure other children. This power imbalance might take the shape of physical strength, access to humiliating information, or popularity.
It could involve anything from spreading rumors to calling names to physically assaulting someone, but it is not just a single instance of being nasty or unkind. At its core, bullying can be defined as the persistent and intentional exercise of power in a manner that is intended to cause the victim some form of distress.
In this article, we aim to provide you with the resources you need if you’re lost and wondering what to do about your child being bullied. You will find the help you need to aid your child in setting safe and healthy boundaries for themselves and how to navigate being the recipient of bullying.
Bullying Statistics in the United States
It may come as a shock to you, but around twenty percent of students ages 12 to 18 in the United States have been bullied. Students in the ages range of 12–18 who reported being bullied stated that they believed individuals who bullied them had the following characteristics:
- Had the ability to influence other students’ perception of them (56%)
- Had stronger social influence (50%)
- Were physically more powerful or greater in size (40%)
- Had a greater amount of money (31%)
Nationwide, 19% of ninth to twelfth graders report being bullied on school property in the preceding 12 months. The following percentages of adolescents aged 12 to 18 had been bullied in various school settings:
- Hallway or stairwell (43.4%)
- Classroom (42.1%)
- Cafeteria (26.8%)
- Outside on school grounds (21.9%)
- Online or text (15.3%)
- Bathroom or locker room (12.1%)
- Somewhere else in the school building (2.1%)
Approximately 46% of children aged 12 to 18 who were bullied during the school year reported the bullying to an adult at school.
Clearly, bullying is an issue that many, many children face whether they report the behavior to an adult or not. There are many laws and regulations in place to discourage bullying and ensure it is stopped before anything serious happens, but the trouble is not necessarily stopping the bullying.
The hard part about navigating bullying with children is that you can’t always be there to stop it. Instead, you must teach children how to properly navigate these situations in the event that an adult is not present.
What Can We Do to Decrease Bullying in Schools?
Why do kids bully? Unfortunately, answering that question is extremely complex and requires an understanding of the statistics on bullying in our country.
Every young person is susceptible to the negative effects of bullying, whether they are the target of bullying themselves, perpetrators of bullying, or witnesses to bullying. If left unaddressed, the repercussions of bullying can sometimes follow a victim into adulthood.
There is no single scenario that can indicate someone might engage in bullying behavior. Children and adolescents who engage in bullying behavior could have strong social networks or be social outcasts; in either case, they might also have been bullied themselves. Those who have been bullied themselves may then turn around and bully others.
Bullying is a complex problem with difficult-to-solve solutions, and the most promising ways to prevent it approach the issue from a variety of different perspectives.
The most successful strategies incorporate the entire school community, including kids, families, administrators, teachers, and staff members such as bus drivers, nurses, and front office and cafeteria workers, in the process of developing an atmosphere of respect inside the school. It’s also helpful to know that both a zero-tolerance policy and immediate expulsion are ineffective disciplinary measures.
When they step in on behalf of the person being bullied, bystanders can make a significant difference in the situation. Studies have also found that adults can assist in the prevention of bullying by having conversations with children about the topic, encouraging children to participate in activities that they find enjoyable, modeling respectful behavior and kindness, and seeking assistance.
Model Positive and Healthy Relationships
The most efficient method to prevent bullying is to ensure that they grow up in relationships characterized by love and respect rather than situations in which they are subjected to coercion or power dynamics.
It’s also important to note that a child will learn that using physical violence as a means to resolve interpersonal conflicts is appropriate if they are subjected to physical punishment. Research has shown, time and time again, that physically disciplining a child is related to an increase in the youngster’s likelihood of engaging in bullying behaviors.
Realistically, any form of punishment that teaches a child to use power over others or to submit to the power of others teaches that child to use power over others. Children frequently see the use of punishment by adults as an instance of the adult employing force to get what they want, which teaches children that it is acceptable to bully others.
This is not to say that punishment is inherently wrong. Rather, it just means that you should have a conversation with your child about why punishment happens. Maybe you can springboard from this conversation into another one with your partner about how you can incorporate loving correction into the house instead of standard punishment. Simply put, teach your child to be a buddy, not a bully.
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Teach Your Kids That It’s Okay to Say No
When compared to the difficulty of saying no to a friend and running the risk of being excluded from the group, it can be even more challenging for children to refuse the requests of adults in positions of authority.
In our country’s culture, children are indoctrinated at an early age with the idea that adults have the right to be obeyed without question. It has been taught for years that the utmost good for us is to be obedient and submissive and that these qualities are the most important ones we can possess.
Most of the time, it is in a child’s best interest to pay attention to adults in positions of authority, such as their parents and teachers, because these individuals typically have the child’s welfare in mind. However, these authority figures are not perfect.
Children need to be aware that their parents, teachers, and even themselves will make mistakes on occasion, just like parents need to be willing to admit when they make mistakes. This requires maintaining an open line of communication in all of our interactions and acknowledging that our children also have valuable information to share with us.
It’s also important that we teach our children that refusing to go along with inappropriate behavior is always the right thing to do. Even simple phrases like “stop that” or “hands off my body” are effective ways to teach your child to stand up for themselves and say no.
Help Your Child Develop Social Skills
Unfortunately, bullies will often target children whom they believe to be weaker than themselves. If you have a child who is struggling with their social skills, you should make it a top priority to support your child in learning how to interact with others. This will make your child less appealing to bullies and will help your child succeed.
Turn your social skills instruction into games and practice them at home. Play a role with your child to demonstrate how to join a game at the playground, make conversation with another child at a party, or arrange a playdate with another child. Children who are successful in joining groups of other children typically observe first and then find a way to integrate into the group rather than simply barging in.
There are times when children have such a strong desire to be accepted by their peers that they continue to socialize with a group of peers even after one of the group leaders starts to mistreat them.
If you have any reason to believe that your child may be susceptible, it is important that you pay attention to what they have to say about their interactions with their peers. Teach them how to get in touch with their own inner wisdom and seek to create opportunities for them to have healthy relationships.
Practice How to Respond to Bullies With Your Child
It is almost always beneficial to play out scenarios with your child to demonstrate how they can stand up to bullies.
Make it clear to your child that a bully’s goal is to elicit a reaction that will make the bully feel more powerful. Therefore, displaying emotion and fighting back is exactly what a bully needs in order to feel satisfied with their behavior. Explain to your child that even if they can’t stop the other child from being mean to them, they can always control how they react to the bullying.
The way your child responds to every interaction will either exacerbate the situation or bring it under control. No matter how angry the bully makes your child, he or she must prevent themselves from becoming “hooked.” The most effective course of action is always for a child to keep their own dignity while also allowing the bully to preserve their dignity.
Something along the lines of a simple “No, thank you” followed by a prompt exit from the situation is typically enough to deescalate the situation. You can also teach your child to count to ten in order to remain cool, look the bully in the eye, and offer a simple excuse to leave, then practice until their tone becomes confident and powerful.
Help Your Child Understand The Dynamics of Bullying
According to the findings of certain studies, bullying behavior typically starts with verbal bullying. Determined by how the “victim” reacts to the initial verbal assault, the bully will either continue to attack this particular child or move on to another “victim.”
In most cases, the level of hostility will increase if the aggressive behavior provides the bully with what they want, which is a sense of superiority that comes from skillfully pressing the other child’s buttons. It is crucial to have a conversation on this topic with each and every child prior to the possibility that they may be bullied.
This critical instruction will prepare them to defend themselves successfully when a bully “tests” them for the first time.
There Is Life After Bullying
There is nothing easy about overcoming bullying, whether you are the child victim of the harassment or the parent learning how to help your child through it. It is a complex problem that does not have a simple solution. At the end of the day, it boils down to raising your child in a loving, caring, and understanding home.
Instead of one solution to this problem, it is an amalgamation of many different things. Though it may seem like the end of the world to a child who is experiencing bullying at school, it is your job as a parent to help them see the reality that this is a small blip on the timeline of their life.
As long as they are being guided by loving parents that set a positive example of how communication and power dynamics work, your child will move past this chapter in their lives and find happiness.
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