As we have witnessed recently, the educational system is broken on many levels. If your child is being bullied, do not rely on your child’s school to fix the problem. More than 40 states have anti-bullying laws that generally require schools to adopt a set of preventive policies, but most teachers have little experience in anti-bullying training. Expecting a large school, often understaffed and under funded, to protect our children has become an outdated fantasy. Teachers have their hands tied behind their back, operating with minimal legal recourse to control aggressive and hostile behavior on campus.
Adults rarely see bullying occur, but other children almost always witness bullying behaviors of another peer. Bystanders are present 85% of the time when someone is being bullied (Craig and Pepler, 1997)
If you suspect that your child is being “bullied” not to be confused with left out, disliked, or unpopular- and your child is in a school setting, my recommendation is that you take immediate action and not return your child to school until your child’s emotional and physical well-being are assessed.
Bullying is a very specific word that carries wide-reaching implications with legal, social, ethical, and criminal consequences.
I anticipate the day will come when mandatory reporting will dictate that adults who witness emotional and social bullying will be legally required to notify authorities.
No one takes pleasure in witnessing another person being bullied but it is rare for someone to stand up to the bully in defense of another.
This means that 1) young children are rarely able to find the appropriate language to alert the authorities, 2) they are distrustful of adults or 3) they are afraid of the bully turning the attention to them.
Research shows that bystanders who step in and take action can usually stop the bullying within 10 seconds (Craig and Pepler, 1997). You need to be safe though, which means that you may need to go for help instead of intervening directly…but you can make a difference.”
Why do children bully? Because they have not acquired the skills to maintain healthy and respectful interactions with peers. They may have good grades or come from “nice” families. Common punitive approaches to diminish bad behavior do not work with this modern day “bully.” Unfortunately, the victim becomes trapped or “emotionally stuck” in the dance, resembling a domestic violence pattern of power and control. To an outsider, it’s mind-boggling why the victim doesn’t get away from the emotionally abusive relationship.
Are there ways to prevent your child from becoming a target of another’s predatorial and aggressive behavior? Yes. Some children are simply more susceptible to taunting and rejection than others. There are proactive steps that parents can take to develop and nurture successful social and relational skills. Naturally, children that have been encouraged to trust their instincts and verbally assert their needs, in a direct and meaningful manner, will have more effective coping skills.
Daniel Goleman’s book, "Emotional Intelligence," is a terrific beginning to work with your child on improving verbal skills, identifying emotions with the correct matching language, and learning to trust their inner voice, which instinctually strives to keep them safe.
Another book, “The Gift of Fear,” by Gavin De Becker illustrates our human instinct towards safety. He convincingly makes the point that crime victims are able to, after the fact, recall their raw thoughts and physical sensations (“a funny feeling”) just minutes or seconds prior to their victimization. In other words, we are hard-wired towards survival and it enables us to recognize a creep when we see it!
Often times, a crime victim dismisses the information her body is taking in. Social pressure to “be nice” and “smile,” even though we have an uneasy feeling, competes for the brain’s ancient wisdom to survive. So, in summary, children should be encouraged to speak about their impressions of the world around them. Example: your child meets a new person in the grocery store and then says, “He was so nice!” Ask your child why he thinks that: "What about the person seemed nice?" If your child responds, “Well, he gave me candy for free,” explore how he/she forms opinions of others and foster reasonable skepticism.
YES! There are solutions. Believe it or not, research indicates that one voice, one held breath and small peep from a nearby peer - “hey, that’s mean!” - is usually all it takes to scamper off a bullying incident. “If you’re the person who is watching the bullying (as the bystander) you might be afraid that the bully could turn on you if you step in and say something. Realize that the bully is controlling you with your own fear, and exerting power over you with that fear.
Raise your child to stand up to bullies! Role-play, rehearse and practice how to intervene and protect peers. Sadly, most peers snicker, giggle or seem to "go-along" when they know that bad behavior is occurring. Teach your child to be a bold peace-maker.
If your child (or family member) is a bully, please ask a teacher, friend, or professional for help. It is your responsibility to control your child's unsafe and dangerous behavior... bullies appreciate (actually crave!) limits and desperately need controls on their behavior. They don't feel good by acting badly, in fact, they feel out of control and tell themselves that they are horrible for being mean and aggressive. If the bully is successful at being a bully, he comes to believe that he is worthless - filled with shame, guilt, and remorse. Step in and protect your child from his own train wreck. Parenting is very difficult and it can be scary to assert your power. I support you.
If you are being bullied:
• Stay calm. Bullies LOVE a reaction so don't give them one. • Don't fight back. You may get hurt or make the situation worse. Bullies want
attention—fighting back only gives them what they want.
• Avoid vulnerable situations. Walk to school earlier or later in the day, or walk with brothers, sisters, neighbors or friends. Don't be alone in hallways, restrooms or empty classrooms. • Project confidence. Slouching, looking
at the ground or your feet, and fidgeting show that you're not sure of yourself. Hold your head up and stand up straight. Bullies pick on you because they think you’re afraid.
• Don't be afraid to tell people you trust. Adults can help more than you think. They have resources that you don’t and the benefit of experience. If at first you don’t find a supportive adult, keep looking. You’ll find one that will listen and help you. • Never give out or share personal
information online, including your name, the names of friends or family, your address, phone number and school name. Personal info also includes pictures of
yourself and your email address. Never tell anyone your passwords.
• Don’t reply to messages from cyberbullies. Even though you may really want to. Cyberbullies want to know
that they're messing with your mind. • Don’t erase or delete messages from cyberbullies. You don't have to read it, but keep it. It’s your evidence. The police and your Internet Service Provider and/or your telephone company can use these messages to help you (courtesy of b-free.ca, Alberta, Canada)
Resilience refers to a class of phenomena characterized by good outcomes in spite of
serious threats to adaptation or development. Resilience has been characterized as the
Resilience is tied to the ability to learn to live with ongoing fear and uncertainty, namely, the ability to show positive adaptation in spite of significant life adversities and the ability to adapt to difficult and challenging life exercises.
In short, resilience turns victims into survivors and allows survivors to thrive. Resilient individuals can get distressed, but they are able to manage the negative behavioral outcomes in the face of risks without becoming debilitated. www.melissainstitute.org and www.TeachSafeSchools.org
Did you know?
Children Who Witness Domestic Violence
Every year, 3.3 million children witness assaults against their mothers. For
example, in California, it is estimated that 10% - 20% of all family homicides are
witnessed by children.
40% of men who abuse their female partner also abuse their children.
As Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong at the broken places."
This is for me…
…my friends today…
And my friends tomorrow.
I think being mean stinks…
I won’t watch someone get picked on
Because I am a do something person…
…not a do nothing person.
I can help change things
I can be a leader
In my world there are no bullies allowed.
Bullying is bad…
Bullying bothers me.
I know sticking up for someone is the right thing to do…
My name is (your name)
And I won’t stand by…
I will stand up
"Where you are NOT alone!"
Copyright of Christina Neumeyer, 2017