It’s that time of year (most) parents look forward to and (most) children dread… back to school. Unfortunately for many children this also means back to an environment rampant with acts of bullying. According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (2011), 46% of children report that they have been bullied at school at least once. Of those children who have been bullied, 18% said that they would not be willing to talk to their parents about it. So whether or not your son or daughter talks about it, chances are your child has either been a victim of or has witnessed bullying. Each bully is different, but bullying is a reinforced behavior, therefore knowing how to react to bullies can help prevent further bullying.
According to Psychology Today (2010), sometimes the best defense against bullying is avoidance. Children should be taught that it is ok to ignore and walk away from a bully. Building a support system of peers is another great way to prevent bullying. Typically, a child who has at least one friend around them is a less desirable target for bullies. If your child is assertive and confident, it can also be beneficial to teach comeback statements, such as “get a life.” This strategy can be especially beneficial for girls, who typically engage in more verbal forms of bullying.
Parents can also take action to prevent their child from being a victim of bullying. A great first step is to simply talk to your child about bullying. Your child may not initiate a conversation about bullying, but asking questions about their relationships with peers may get them to open up. Additionally, parents can increase their child’s opportunities for socialization in order to build an awesome support system of peers and provide a buffer against bullying. Children would also benefit from their parents teaching and modeling empathy. If children know how to put themselves in others’ shoes, they may be more willing to stand up for a classmate who is being bullied. Finally, never teach your children that aggression is the way to end bullying. In most instances, counter-aggression actually increases the chances of further bullying.
by Krista Walburn, MA