Is Your Child Being Bullied? 10 Steps for Parents

Please note: On January 9, 2011, I was contacted by the publisher of Legacy Books, who informed me that this article is actually the work of Janet Lehman, MSW, who published her article on “Empowering Parents.” The link to the original article is here.

excellent post by Lori Clark. I wanted to post it here for anyone whose child is being bullied.

Here are 10 practical things you can do to stop (or prevent) your child from being bullied!

1. Listen to what your child has to say. Being a good liI wanted to bring the omission to my readers’ attention, and repost the article with the correct authorship noted. Please visit the “Empowering Parents” website if you would like additional information on helping your child.

The other day AnnArbor.com ran an article about a Lincoln School student who suffered a concussion after being bullied several times by a six-year-old. Among the outraged responses was thisstener is an important piece of your role when your child is being bullied. One of the best questions you can ask your child is, “What can I do to be helpful?” When your child tells you what’s going on at school, as much as it hurts to listen, be open and able to hear what he has to say. Try to be supportive but neutral when he’s talking. When you react too strongly to what your child is saying, he might stop talking because he’s afraid he’s going to upset you.

2. Don’t blame your child. Don’t put the responsibility for the bullying on him or try to find a reason for it; there is no good reason or excuse for what’s happening. If your child is being bullied, he is the victim, so trying to find a reason for why he’s “bringing it on himself” really isn’t helpful. Never blame your child because it makes him anxious and reduces what he’s going to tell you. Your goal is that he continues to communicate what’s going on.

3. If you were bullied as a child, try not to personalize what is happening. If you were bullied when you were younger, the same situation with your child will most likely bring up painful memories. It’s okay to connect with your child about how it feels to be bullied, but don’t take the problem on as if it’s yours alone. I think the most important thing to do when your child is bullied is to remember the responses you received from others that were—or weren’t—helpful. Use what worked and avoid doing what was unsupportive or hurtful.

4. Don’t retaliate against the bully or his family. As tempting as it might be to take matters into your own hands and retaliate against the bully or his family, don’t do it. This is where you have to set some examples for your child on how to problem solve. It’s very difficult to hear that your child is being threatened; of course you want to immediately stop the hurt. But remember, retaliating won’t help your child solve the problem or feel better about himself. Instead, take a deep breath and think about what you can do to help your child handle what he’s facing.

5. Coach your child on how to react. Bullies tend to pick on people who they can get a reaction from; they choose kids who get upset and who take the teasing to heart. They also look for kids who won’t stand up for themselves, or who they can overpower. It’s important to teach your child how to react. We coached our son on how to avoid bullies at school and who to go to if he felt unsafe. We also did role plays together where we practiced not reacting to what the bullies said. Another part of what we did was set it up so that our son had some control over what was going on. He couldn’t stop the bullying right away, but he could get himself away from it and he could find someone to talk to about it.

6. Find a teacher or administrator at your child’s school who will help. Remember, it is the school’s responsibility to stop bullying; I think most take that seriously. The saving grace for our son was the guidance counselor at his school. She provided a safe place for our son to go when he was being picked on. The guidance counselor wanted him to feel like he had some control over the situation, so our child was the one taking the initiative to talk with her. (While we didn’t openly discuss this with him, he knew at some level that we were also talking to the guidance counselor.) We felt it was important for our child to have some sense of taking this problem on and solving it by going to the guidance counselor on his own.

After he started talking with her, she let him know that he could just sit in her office, even if she wasn’t there; the school allowed him to basically take a time out or break to get away from the bullying situation. Again, that gave him some control over what was going on. It gave him a source of support and made him feel like he wasn’t powerless. By talking to the guidance counselor and using his pass to go to her office, it showed him that there were some solutions to the situation.

It’s also important to make sure your child keeps talking—whether it’s with you, a guidance counselor or a trusted teacher, it’s important that he keeps communicating about what’s going on.

7. Take your child’s side. When our son was being bullied, we constantly reaffirmed that there were things he could do to handle the situation, and that he was in fact doing them. We let him know that we were going to get him help and that we loved him and we were going to support him. We also said that there was no excuse for what was happening to him. Make sure to let your child know that you’re on his side; he needs to understand that you don’t blame him and that you will support him.

We also let our child know that if he retaliated against the group, by swearing back or even fighting, that we wouldn’t punish him at home. Our son was bullied physically and verbally, and we told him that he could do what he needed to do to protect himself. We told him that he would still have consequences at school for any misbehavior because that would be against the rules, but we didn’t add to them at home.

8. Get support. Be sure to talk to your spouse or to supportive family or friends. Sometimes I would burst out crying after hearing about what had happened to our son. There were definitely times when James and I got angry. I think the bottom line is that this situation can really bring out emotions from parents.

We found that we needed to talk with each other about this as a couple because it was so hurtful, and because we wanted to be clear in how we communicated to our son. I recommend that single parents reach out to somebody—a family member, friend, or someone at the school—anyone who can help you help your child. We reached out to friends and colleagues as well, and asked how they handled it when it happened to their kids. If nothing else, it helped us feel like we weren’t alone and that there wasn’t anything wrong with our child.

9. Teach your child to name what’s happening. For younger kids, it’s important to be able to name what’s happening as “bullying.” For a child who’s feeling picked on, it’s empowering to be able to really name it. They’re teaching a lot about bullying prevention in school these days and “bully” is such a negative word that it’s good for your child to be able to attach it to the behavior. This is truly empowering for many children and can work with older kids, as well.

10. Find something your child is really good at doing. Help your child feel good about himself by finding something he can do well. Choose some activities he’s good at and reinforce it verbally. Our son got involved in swimming and it was very helpful for his self–esteem.

This post has been adapted from “Is Your Child Being Bullied? 9 Steps You Can Take as a Parent” and has been reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents.

Janet Lehman, MSW has worked with troubled children and teens for over 30 years. She held various roles during her career as a social worker, including juvenile probation officer, case manager and therapist. Janet also worked as a program director for 22 years in traditional residential care and in group homes for difficult children.

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One Comment

  1. Great post about a current topic. It seems with increased violence and lawlessness in society, there is also increased violence in school. I have three strategies to add to the article:
    1) You can always change schools. Particularly if your child attends a government run/state school you can move them to a private and or religious school. Like all large social organizations schools have a “culture” and your child may fit in better elsewhere.
    2) Homeschool for the rest of the year (the make up of the classes are reassigned).
    3) File a lawsuit. It is nicce that the guidance councilors gave your child time out space, but the real issue is teachers not doing their job and properly disciplining those who are bullying and cruel. The inmates should not be running the asylum.

    Like

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