Bully Proof Your Child – Part 2
If Your Child is Being Bullied
Bullying can happen anywhere your child has relationships: Sports teams and interest groups, social events, within the family and at school. Given your child spends a majority of time at school, it is the place where they are most likely to be bullied. If your child is being bullied, the first approach is to empower them to put a stop to it.
What To Do
First, listen and take the time to show them you understand. You are aiming to help your child open up about the bullying without fear of you over reacting or judging them. Allow your child to tell their story. Do everything within your power not to interrupt. Your aim is to collect all the information you can, so as to get a clear understanding of exactly what is happening. Find out where and when the bullying is occurring, and the names of those involved, including any witnesses. If you need more information allow them to retell the entire story at their pace, even if most of it is repetition. Be patient here. It is essential you remain calm, supportive and caring while listening.
2. Have a Calm Conversation
Next, have a calm conversation about what you have heard to check that what you are hearing is the same as what they are saying. You are likely going to be experiencing anger, frustration and a host of other uncomfortable feelings. Do not let them show! If you do, you will only serve to intensify the discomfort your child is already experiencing. Being bullied is a traumatic experience. Telling your parents, and worrying they will overreact, can be extremely challenging.
You are going to remain calm and do everything within your power to reduce their fear. If you do, you will find they continue to come to you with their issues in future. Your child should feel that talking about being bullied is both safe and right.
3. Offer Support
Now offer support. Remind your child they have every right to feel frustrated, fearful, angry and hurt. It is absolutely normal they should be feeling this way and it makes total sense. Tell them it is never okay to be bullied and they have a right to feel safe as do all people. It is also helpful to remind them that bullies do this on purpose and that while they do it, your child’s feelings will not disappear.
4. Ask Questions
Finally, ask your child, “What would you like to happen now?” Most children will say they want the bullying to stop but they don’t know how this can be achieved. They fear if the bully is punished then things will get worse.
At this point they may not wish for you to contact their school. The situation may
be minimal enough that some sound parental advice might end the bullying.
What Not To Do
If your child is being bullied you’ll hear plenty of counterproductive advice. You may be tempted to give your child some of this advice. Research, evidence and experience indicates you SHOULD NOT tell your child to:
Stand up to, or fight the bully.
Toughen up and get over it.
Be thankful that they have some other friends.
Ignore the bully.
Understand the bully is weak and has low self-esteem.
Try to be positive and have happy thoughts.
Simply make new and better friends.
Stop being weak.
These statements indicate that you as the parent are not going to do anything.
Children who receive this advice may believe their parents don’t care or are incapable of helping them. It almost certainly guarantees there will be no change in the bullying behaviour and no improvement in their safety.
Aggressive intervention from a parent is also unhelpful. Avoid telling your child to:
- Stop worrying because you are going to deal with the bully yourself.
- Stop fretting because you’re going to speak to the parents of the bully.
These approaches will make the issue worse. Essentially, you are indicating to your child the best way to deal with aggression is to be more aggressive. This is like hitting your child to teach them it is not okay to hit their sibling.
If you suspect your child is being cyber bullied, you should not:
Take away their technology. Children have stated they do not report being cyber bullied for fear of losing access to technology. This can make them feel powerless and punished, and isolates them from supportive peers.
Allow your child around-the-clock access to technology. Have a specific switch-off time for all technology devices.
Responding to Bullying: A Parent-Child Approach
Here is a list of advice you may like to offer your child if you both agree not to involve the school in the first instance:
- Look the bully directly in the eye and firmly state, “I’m not comfortable with this”; or “Stop bullying me”.
This can be seen as a fair and non-aggressive way to establish boundaries without antagonising the bully.
- Speak to a favourite teacher and say, “I don’t want anything to happen yet, I just want you to know about
the bullying. If it gets worse I will come back to you.”
- If possible, avoid people, places and events where bullying might occur.
- Build a list of social and sporting groups to join that have nothing to do with the bully and everything to do with building new skill-sets and making new friends.
- Teach your child that staying home from school will not change the bullying situation. In fact, staying home could make it worse, as the bully is getting a reaction. On top of that, your child will fall behind in schoolwork and feel greater disconnection from their functional social group.
- Explain they are not to retaliate but rather to use calm and friendly language. Even make a joke of the situation so as to include the bully in shared humour. Researchers have called this technique fogging. (Fogging is a common technique used by stand-up comedians who make fun of themselves when a joke falls flat on the audience. Rather than have the audience mock and jeer them, the comedian creates a joke out of the situation, so the audience now feels they are on the same team as the comedian.) In the case of bullying, the idea is to join the bully and validate that what they are saying may have some truth to it. By joining the bully, your child can remove the power from the bully’s words.
Here is an example of how fogging works:
Bully: You look like a clown in your new shoes.
Victim: I thought that too!
Bully: You look like a stupid clown.
Victim: It’s okay, I feel like one too.
Bully: Couldn’t your mum afford proper shoes?
Victim: No, she couldn’t. It’s sad isn’t it?
Bully: I feel sorry for you. You’re a loser.
Victim: You could be right there!
The key is to never react. That is what the bully wants. If your child does not react to a bully, the bully will see them as a poor return on investment. There is no point picking on somebody who only agrees with them!
With coaching from you, a counsellor or another respected adult, your child can learn to respond with techniques that force the bully to question their own statements. For example:
Bully: You look stupid in that shirt!
Victim: I thought so too. What was it that made you think that?
Bully: You’re a loser.
Victim: I was thinking the same thing. Why were you thinking that?
Bully: Because you are.
Victim: I agree, but what was the reason for you thinking that?
Finally, maintain daily, open conversations with your child about what is happening at school. By keeping communication open, your child will be more likely to tell you when things are not going so well.
Responding to Bullying: A Parent-Child Approach
If your child is being bullied at school, and you have used the methods suggested above, you are best to work with the school to resolve the issue. It is best to deal with instances of bullying as soon as they occur.
I am noticing an increasing number of schools employing the ‘restorative justice’ method. This process steers away from direct punishment. Instead, it brings together all students involved in the bullying situation and invites them to learn from the process. The bully is required to attend ongoing meetings with the victim to design behaviours that will mend the negative impacts of the bullying. The goal is to restore and strengthen the relationship between all children involved.
Before making contact there are some steps you should take to help the school respond effectively:
1. Go to the school website and read its bullying policy. You will generally find this under the student wellbeing or school behavioural policies. You are looking for the school’s statement on how they work to prevent bullying and keep your child safe. It should include a procedure for resolving bullying incidents when they have been reported.
2. Write notes on everything your child has stated. Gather evidence such as screen shots of messages from texts, emails and social media. You do not want to forget anything.
3. Collate the names of all students involved, including witnesses.
Setting Out For Success:
Tips For Approaching The School
Make an appointment with the appropriate staff member and check if the school is aware of the issue. Be aware that your child may not yet have told a staff member. Accordingly, do not assume the school is aware of the issue. Be comforted however, that in today’s environment, the school will want to eliminate the bullying as much as you. Schools failing to act on bullying are quickly publicised for such a failure, and can be held to account.
Once you have met with and informed the relevant staff member of the issue, ask them what they plan to do and how long you can expect to wait for an update.
Schedule a follow-up meeting based on the agreed time frame. It will help to show that you are serious about wanting action and that they are accountable to the schedule they have defined.
Now, give them the agreed time to investigate the problem.
Should the school fail to resolve the issue, and the bullying continues then you should take the problem to a higher authority within the school. If this does not work, contact the education department with administrative authority over the school. At this point make your actions known to the staff members who have failed to work with you to resolve the issue.
If the bullying is not resolved, and you elect to withdraw your child from the school, be clear with both the school and the higher authorities as to the reasoning behind your decision.
Responding To Cyber Bullying
Many parents are not aware that cyber bullying is against the law. If you suspect your child is being cyber-bullied, you should:
Save screenshots of all content to a secure file that can be produced as evidence of the bullying. In the event the bully deletes content, you have a record of it.
Help your child to reply to the bully, stating that they would like the bully to immediately cease all contact. Save this message.
After this, tell your child not to react to, or engage with the bully if the bully makes further contact.
Increase the privacy settings of your child’s social media accounts.
Teach your child to create strong passwords, which you change together regularly.
Monitor your child’s online activity. This includes building your own awareness around the social media sites they use, conducting a daily history check of all sites they visit, and control all accounts including mobile telephone records.
Contact your Internet service provider or the website administration team
If it’s a social media site, report it immediately as abuse or offensive posting.
If the bully is making threats of violence, or referring to violent acts then contact the police immediately.
Talk to your child’s school or whichever social group you believe the perpetrator belongs to (e.g., sports club, interest group).
Look for signs of offline bullying. Often, an unidentified keyboard bully is somebody who is already bullying your child in person.
Block the number, profile or email address so your child cannot receive any more messages. This may also force the offender to set up a new false account. Two accounts or more now from the same IP address will help identify the bully.
Some More Home-Based Digital Strategies
- Get to know and embrace their digital world.
- Learn about and then employ powerful modern parental controls on their digital devices.
- Join them in management of their digital identities and online reputation.
- Remind them The Golden Rule of the outside world applies equally in the digital world: If you would not say this to that person’s face then do not post it online.
- Set up an agreement surrounding which sites, and what content, is acceptable for downloading videos, music, games and the like.
- Use family meetings to create guidelines for what is acceptable surrounding time spent online and where it will be ok to use their devices.
- Reassure your child that if they inform you of something controversial, you will not ‘pull the plug’ in response.
When Your Child Is The Bully
Learning about and negotiating relationships is a natural part of your child’s development. It is for this reason many parents find their child at some stage exhibiting bullying behaviour. You may feel very disappointed in your child when they bully another, and be tempted to respond with anger. This will not help your child to reflect and grow. Instead, help your child to mature out of it. Below are some effective pro-social strategies you can use as a starting point:
In a calm voice, discuss your child’s behaviour with an education and solution-focused goal.
Help them to identify alternative behaviours, and remember, it is the behaviour you are addressing, not your child’s character.
Discuss with your child how they would feel if they were being bullied.
When possible, increase your presence when they are playing with other children.
Ask them what they hope to achieve with their bullying behaviour.
Offer them help regarding how they might cease their bullying.
Ask them what they think may go wrong if they are not bullying the other person. Are they scared they will be bullied instead?
Check if they are bullying because the behaviour gains group approval.
Teach them not to laugh at or participate in bullying behaviour.
Help them withdraw attention from individuals who bully others.
Conduct an education session on the negative effects of bullying on the victim.
Introduce rewards and consequences surrounding treatment of others. We will learn much more about this process later.
Be ready to offer positive reinforcement for pro-social group behaviour. There are tools in this book to guide you through this process.
Teach your child the basic skills required to exhibit empathy, patience, understanding and kindness. These are integral for their development and maintenance of positive, lasting relationships. Research indicates, children who do not learn these skills, and continue to bully unchecked, commonly mature into adults who struggle in relationships with themselves and others. Unchecked bullying can result in significant difficulty beyond childhood, including:
Troubles with employment, income, friendships and romance.
Challenged mental health.
Inability to successfully manage conflict.
Significantly greater incidence of domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction and criminal activity.
Higher probability of raising children who bully.
Increased likelihood of development of anti-social type personality disorders.
The curative work I have covered forms the essential pool of knowledge you need to help your child manage bullying that is already occurring. You will also need the tools that will help you raise your child with a skillset that will help to bully-proof them throughout life.
This is the Preventative Work and we will cover some of this in Bully Proof your Child Part 3.
Bully Proof Your Child
A Handbook for Raising a Child With Super Hero Self-Esteem
Comprised of 20 easy to follow chapters, Bully Proof Your Child: A Handbook for Raising a Child With Super Hero Self-Esteem focuses on teaching parents how to raise children to see themselves as worthy, valuable and able to face life’s problems. It shows parents how to teach their children to competently deal with being bullied, in a non-combative and positive fashion.
Using an easy to implement home-based system, parents are given instructions on how to ensure their children develop stronger mental, emotional and behavioural well-being. Finally, the book shows parents exactly how to take control of building a loving and productive parent-child relationship.
My aim is to give parents and children who experience the torment of bullying, a sense of hope, confidence, power and self-belief in knowing they have the tools, strategies and support to deal with this potentially life-threatening situation.
Your FREE eBook
For now, I have included for you my free eBook,
“Five Practical and Effective Ways to Raise Your Child’s Self-Esteem.”
This is a short, easy to read, fantastic handbook designed specifically for loving parents who want to take an active role in raising confident children who know how to show up … because the world in run by those who show up.
Read more about Bullying
On the next page we will examine Preventative Strategies you can use to
bully-proof your child by raising their resilience with super hero self-esteem.