Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
- Start early. Research suggests that the more open, supportive and trustworthy relationships between parent and child are critical. Establish a routine of talking about his/her school day in detail, avoiding yes or no questions. The more comfortable they are chatting with you, the more likely they’ll share if they witnesses bullying.
- Bullying 101. Help your child recognize the difference between bullying, playful teasing and everyday conflicts. Bullying, by definition, is the repeated harassment of one child by a more “powerful” peer. Power can be anything from physical dominance to popularity.
- Clear message. Talk about bullying and relationships frequently with your child, and include your expectations for how he/she treats other children. Give explicit advice—instead of simply saying, “be nice,” encourage them to eat lunch with and organize recess games with everyone.
- Avoid joining in. Many witnesses opt to avoid becoming the group’s next target by chiming in with the ridicule. Convey that while you expect your child to be brave enough not to cave to peer pressure, that doesn’t mean he/she has to confront someone who’s being physically aggressive or violent. Instead, focus on other things he/she can do.
- Do something. Simply standing by doesn’t help anyone, so tell your child to step in if they witnesses bullying. Studies have revealed that when bystanders intervene, bullying behavior stops more than half of the time. Getting involved doesn’t have to mean signing your child up for boxing lessons. Instead, teach them to tell a trusted adult, say something to the bully (if they feel safe doing so), or reach out to the child who has been bullied.
- Role-play. Brainstorm different bullying situations with your child, and help him/her act them out.
- Cyber awareness. Your child doesn’t have to be physically present to be effected by bullying. If he/she sees a classmate being targeted online, encourage them to save the message and report the cyberbullying to an adult. Many social media sites have mechanisms for reporting abuse. For example, if your child has a Facebook page, help him/her become familiar with how to report harassment on the world wide web.
- Inspire empathy. Bullying often has devastating consequences for victimized children later in life, so teach your child to ask the child targeted if they’re okay, offer to spend time together, or to simply say sorry that it happened.