How to Respond to Bullies

School is back in session!
Your child might either be very excited or disappointed that summer is over, the air is colder, and school is here to stay for the next eight months!

On top of learning new academics and adjusting to a new routine, there is also new social dynamics to be learned within their classes.

While every school is different, you hope for the best that your child does not have to deal with teasing or bullying. The truth is that even if you have effective communication with your child, they may still be hesitant to tell you if another kid is pushing them around. This could be because they’re embarrassed, nervous, or wanting to handle it on their own.  

For the safety of your child and every child involved in a bullying situation, it is not something to be handled light-heartedly. While the older generations are known for writing off bullying as “character-building”, a mildly abrasive encounter can eventually lead to a much more serious issue if a child is not punished for acting out against his or her peers.

While of course the goal as a parent is to eventually teach your child to be effective in problem-solving and independent enough to fight their own battles, bullying is an issue because, especially in more severe situations like an event of a physical altercation, an adult is the only force that can step in and put an end to it. If the event transpires on school property, administration most likely gets involved and that can lead to further disciplinary action. The goal is, of course, to never get to that point!

Yes, the effects on a victim of bullying can be long-lasting (emotionally, mentally, and physically), but what can almost be considered more detrimental is a bully that was never effectively disciplined for his or her behavior and then grows into an aggressive and out-of-control adult.

A way to open up the discussion with your child is by telling them a story about your personal experience. There’s a high chance you were bullied, know someone who was – or were a bully yourself! This normalizes what they might be feeling and are more likely to open up about what they’re going through.

If your child is in fact, experiencing issues with bully, here is the recommended advice (in fact, you may wish you had these step-by-step tips when you were a kid!)

  1. While It’s Happening:

The first thing anyone can do while confronted with a bully is to walk away or remove themselves from the situation. If this is not possible and you are cornered, tell the bully firmly to “stop”. The most important thing a victim to do is to try and keep their emotions calm, even if it’s just on the surface. If you can remain calm on the outside, the bully has nothing to fuel their fire to continue to taunt you. They are spurred on by their subject reacting to their provocations, so being able to control a knee-jerk response can shut them down pretty quickly.

  1. After:

Tell a friend you trust to help process the situation and support you. Friends are great to have even in situations where the confrontation might not have been that severe or stayed in control.  Next, tell an adult you trust, even if the altercation did not escalate to threats or physical violence. Even just experiencing being talked down to: “You’re stupid” “you’re so ugly”, name calling, etc. NEEDS to be stopped as this can spar a bully on to bigger and badder endeavors. Talking-down is a step-ladder for which these insecure boys and girls can build aggression for further deeds. It’s important to note that reporting a serious issue is NOT tattling, and a child should be praised for having the courage to speak out in a difficult situation.

  1. Over time:

Try to avoid areas where you and a potential bully can come into direct contact without adults around. This might be in the hallways, at a bus stop, or on the playground. If you can, have a buddy system where you always have one or more friends around you. Not only are bullies less likely to corner a victim when there’s people around, but if a situation does arise, you will have at least one witness to testify to the event.

It’s also important to have go-to friends or adults you look up to in order to talk out your emotions. Getting your feelings out in the open is therapeutic; just because a conflict is resolved doesn’t mean there are not lingering emotions. If it helps, consider journaling to vent on to paper. Processing the events over in your head can help you recognize next time when a bad situation is stirring. Practicing at home or writing down responses to a bully can also help you remember a good and proactive statements to make in the heat of the moment.

 

For other ideas, visit the Anti-Defamation League’s page on bullying. Have a great school year!