Teach children to speak up immediately
A mother from Alabama writes: “Our daughter attends a local public school. We had a difficult time with bullies in first grade late last year. The majority of the problem was with two kids terrorizing or ganging up together (a brother and sister) against our 6-year-old on the bus. It started with one of them grabbing her lunch bag and literally helping themselves to whatever they felt like taking from our daughter, whether it was her lunch, snacks, drinks, milk money, etc. Our daughter would not speak up or tell me at all. It went on for a while until she became physically ill and a nurse called me from school. We went outside and talked and I immediately went back to her classroom and talked to her teacher, the boy’s teacher, the nurses and then the principal. She handled it immediately by calling the parents while we were in the office. The children went to the time-out room, and I requested my daughter’s bus seat be changed and moved closer to the driver. This worked, combined with telling my daughter over and over how wrong it was and that she needed to speak up and tell someone immediately.
“Some advice to other parents: A. Take the time and talk to your kids every day and ask how their day goes and really pay attention. I had no clue until my daughter complained of stomach aches and started requesting I drive her to school. It was very unlike her. B. Don’t approach the bullies yourself or get on the bus. Let the school reach out to the parents and go from there. This is the first thing that I learned besides teaching myself to breathe properly again. Do talk to and inform your child’s teacher, the nurses and the bullies’ teacher. C. Do coach your kids how wrong it is to be picked on and that they aren’t doing anything wrong by seeking out their teacher, a counselor, the principal and/or you. They need to understand they are the victim, they are not tattling or being the ‘troublemaker’ as our daughter thought. D. I bought some books on bullying and donated two copies to the school. I bought extras for us and we read them frequently at home. I also believe that kids have to be taught how to talk nice and be a friend.
“What our school is doing: We have a new principal this year. The school has mini-seminars about bullying, respect, etc. for the kids. But this year our school made up a contract between the school and the students, for each and every student to read and sign. The parents have to read and sign it as well and return it to the schools office. It has a lot of points and good information, but in general, the contract states good behavior will be expected and demanded at all times during the school day. It talks about respect towards the school, the teacher and classmates. The kids must keep their hands and feet to themselves at all times. It talks about misbehavior on a bus may lead to punishment, including suspension and expulsion from school. We have a list of the bus rules. The school’s policy handbook was very thick this year and informative. Also, what goes hand-in-hand are the school’s motto: “The three R’s = respectful, responsible and resourceful.” The motto and definitions are on a form and all of the kids had to sign this form and return it to school.”
Don’t be blind to signs that your child might be being bullied
The Illinois mother of a seventh grade boy writes, “I am currently involved in stopping bullying behaviors that are directed at my son. Last year, in his sixth grade year, he was being bullied and I did not know. He had constant headaches, wanted to stay home often, did not want to walk home from school (6 blocks away) and I did not put the scenario together. I took him to the doctor for headaches and thought he just did not want to walk home. When I discovered this year that he was being bullied last year, I was hurt. I felt like I was not a good parent and that my husband should have caught the signs. This year I am not the same mother. There is a bullying prevention program called Olweus that the school has adopted. But no matter how great the program, the child must be willing to tell. Children have a code of silence that is developed through fear and not wanting to tattle. My son is telling me what is going on this time and I have him report it to the teacher. I follow that conversation up because some teachers will drop the ball. I have the assistant principal involved and if it is not resolved immediately, I will involve the principal and then the legal system (press charges) if needed. Our children should not be victimized at school. Schools must have a safe, nurturing, educational environment. Sometimes I wonder at outbreaks of violence in schools around the country and what could have happened differently if the parents were more involved in their children’s lives, not only at home, but in school also. How do you stop a bully? It has to be a joint collaboration between parents and the school.”
Implement a school-wide anti-bullying program
A school official from Texas writes, “This month of October we are kicking off with the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program were all school staff will be trained on how to deal with bullying and it will be awesome as to how we will present it to the teachers, parents, and the students. We are seeing a lot of bullying in our sixth graders and we now are realizing how important it is to begin dealing with this issue. Our second step is to do a school-wide survey to see how many student at one point in their lives have been bullied.”
Out the bully
“My children have been bullied, from being talked to rudely to being pushed down the stairs at school. I think the only satisfactory action is to out the bully, reporting them to the teacher or administration. If the school does not discipline the student then I would take my child out of school. My children have all attended private and public schools and private schools do not allow rudeness, children are taught to treat each other with respect as their teachers model. This has not always been the case in public school, but so far the children have been disciplined satisfactorily.”
Volunteer at the school to observe for yourself
“I am a parent of a 12-year-old and a 9-year-old. Both my children asked me to be yard duty at lunch because of the bullying taking place and I was stunned by some behavior I witnessed. One boy was pulling down a girl’s sweats — he likes her and this was his way of showing it. This is bullying. The typical forms of bullying are more common — excluding or labeling. I took the approach of asking the bully if they knew what they were doing, if they were aware of how their actions made the other child feel. This question has worked really, really well. Many kids aren’t aware they are “being a bully” and once it’s pointed out to them a light bulb seemed to turn on. No one wants to be a bully but perhaps they don’t realize they fell into a pattern of bullying to get their way.”
Develop a “solution mantra”
A mom from Mississippi writes, “My daughter had a problem with being one as a 3-year-old and has also been the victim. We developed a solution mantra we call My Three Options: Talk, Walk, and Tell the Teacher. Talk: Talk to your friend, tell them you don’t like what they are doing or you would want them to do something else like share a toy or let you know when they are ready to give someone else a turn, etc. Walk: If talking doesn’t work, walk away from the situation/person, find something else to do, someone/something else to play with, etc. Tell the Teacher: If talking and walking do not work, if the person is insistent on giving you a hard time, following you when you walk away, etc. then you get an adult who has some authority involved.
“Every morning my daughter and I talk about what it means to behave or be good in terms of following the classroom/school rules and using her three options and I have seen vast improvements in her behavior at school and in her enjoyment of school. Sometimes we role play too, making funny voices and faces and saying do we talk like this… no. We also have several words and actions clearly identified as unacceptable regardless of the perpetrator such as ‘stupid’, ‘shut up’, spitting, and getting in others’ personal space whether with our hands or feet or face.”
Get the whole school community involved
A mom from New Jersey writes, “I believe that the whole community is responsible for our children. It is obvious that parents and caregivers are primarily responsible for raising children, however, the community is also responsible for their care and well being.
When parents and caregivers along with teachers and coaches and members of the community, all come together in a basic philosophy to “reach out and connect” with our children we are all one step ahead of the game. The more people that know the child and show the child that there are people who know them and care about them, the more children will reach out for help, victims and more importantly, the bully himself.”
A parent’s visit to the school can make a difference
A parent of a 6-year-old writes, “I have a second grader who was being bullied the first week she started school (this is a new school for her and the young lady that did the bullying). My daughter is well versed in this kind of situation because this is not the first time something like this has happened. She knew to report the problem to her teacher and to the teacher of the little lady that was causing the problem. When that didn’t work, because teachers seem to never believe the kids at first, I just went to the school and did as my daughter had previously done. I also let the “bully” see my face and know that I was aware of the situation, without saying, and we haven’t had a problem since. I think that a parent’s presence, at least at the elementary school level, can scare off a bully in some instances. It seemed to help when the other kid realized that my daughter was not alone.”
Some tips from a school counselor
A licensed school counselor from New Mexico offers this advice: “I have found that how the victim acts is a critical factor as to whether the victim continues to get bullied or not. A lot of victims I have helped have tended to be the youngest or smallest in their family or class or for their age. Some have been the biggest or tallest or have some feature that other kids will pick on. As a result the victim may attempt to hide, be less noticeable, walk more slowly, cower, hide under his/her hoodie. Sadly such behaviors often only entice bullying further.”
“One of the best defenses against bullying is the one-liner. The trick is in the delivery. For instance, if the victim delivers a one-liner without immediately walking away, he/she leaves him/herself open for verbal intimidation. This can attract attention which inevitably leads to people taking sides and an escalation of the situation. A one-liner is something that puts the responsibility back on the one initiating the confrontation, e. g., the victim says “Gee, I’m sorry you are having a really bad day today!” or “What a waste of a good brain!” If the victim can deliver this brief message, immediately walk away with head held high, the bully is usually too surprised or confused to immediately react.
“Bullies are usually victims of bullying themselves, i.e., from older siblings. Encouraging kids to have healthy personal boundaries is the first step to reduce bullying. Educating kids how to communicate appropriately, effectively and respectfully is something school staff and family can do. Ultimately kids need to know that whatever they are feeling, they can confide in a safe environment and trust that someone cares enough to pay attention to what they are saying.”
Teaching children to speak to an adult about bullying is one of many suggestions from our readers on how to deal with a bully.