School is out for the day and you want your children to be care free and enjoy their evenings–if only bullies took some time off, too! Even when school is out, your child faces bully behavior at the neighborhood park, at the community pool, and possibly even from his so-called friends. What can you do to prevent bullying from weighing down your child’s carefree attitude?
Seeing Through the Facade
The first thing parents should know about bullies is that they look a whole lot different from the thugs of their own youth who unabashedly stole lunch money or blatantly intimidated with their size and strength. Those bullies were easy to spot and proud of their bad reputation. Observant parents and children everywhere knew to steer clear of these bullies whenever possible.
For the most part, 21st century bullies have mastered the art of blending in with the crowd, flying under an adult’s radar, and wreacking their havoc in subtle ways. Instead of being frequent fliers in the Principal’s office, today’s intimidators often top a parent’s “what-a-nice-kid” list and make their way into your child’s inner circle—before showing their true colors. If you blink, you may miss their hostile actions the first few times around.
Whether it be the name calling and threats of yesterday or today’s social exclusion and rumor-spreading, bullies of all generations share a similar objective: to make their victims feel alone and powerless. Parents who understand this end-game are in the best position to teach their children how to protect themselves from bully-imposed isolation.
From an early age, make sure that your son or daughter is able to recognize bully behavior in all its various forms. Physical violence, threats of harm, rumor-spreading, and public humiliation all fall along the painful continuum of bullying. Encourage your child to let an adult know about any instances of bully behavior, either in his own life or that he sees occurring with a peer.
Though there are adults who fail to recognize the seriousness of some situations, more often, grown-ups are simply unaware of today’s typical whispered taunts, written notes, and cyber-bullying. Make sure your child knows that it is his job to create awareness.
Telling vs. Tattling
Does your child worry that if he “tattles,” the bullying will worsen? Help him to realize that this is exactly what the bully wants him to think! Isolation is how the bully operates. It is only by telling an adult that your child can end the isolation that the bully has begun. When the bully realizes that his intended victim is bold enough to connect with others, he loses his stronghold.
Good friends are hard to find, but spotting a bully need not be difficult. When parents teach their children how to recognize bully behavior in all of its forms and assure kids that enlisting an adult’s support is a bold move, they give their children back the carefree days and fun-filled nights that mark a classic childhood.
I am very excited to announce one school’s show of force against bullying. An incident occurred on school grounds and the child being attacked didn’t fight back or provoke the attack, therefore the school is standing behind this young man. In an effort to show their support and the seriousness behind the “no-bullying” rule, the school is pressing charges against the attacker.
The attack could have been prevented if the young man had spoken to an adult about the threat, but the young man did step forward after the attack to report it to the appropriate adults. I believe this example will show others telling is not tattling. I applaud this school’s reaction to the attack. On the converse side, I also hope the attacker will understand the consequences to his actions and learned to handle anger in another manner.
Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker, mother of two daughters, freelance writer and co-author of The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools and Workplaces. Please visit her blog about passive aggressive behavior. My Baby Clothes Boutique provides unique baby clothes, tutus, matching baby headbands along with Signe’s articles to help give back to the parenting community.
- Anatomy of a Bully: Part I
- Anatomy of a Bully: Part II
- Anatomy of a Bully: Part III
- Passive Aggressive Behavior in the Classroom
- Sticks and Stones