As parents, we tend to think that our kids will come to us if they are in trouble, scared or hurt. However, this is not always the case, especially when it comes to bullying. Kids can be ashamed that they are unable to do anything to make the bully stop and embarrassed about the situation, not to mention fear that their parent might make it worse by talking to the school. They may even think they can handle the bully on their own, not realizing things can get out of control quickly.
Signs of a Bully
Knowing that your child may be reluctant to tell you about bullying, it is important to notice the signs of bullying. Some of these signs may also manifest as typical pre-teen behavior, but the shift will be recognizable to someone close to the child, especially if clues lead you to pay special attention. Keep an eye out for these signs:
• Increased reluctance to go to school
• Avoidance of places where bully may be
• Unexplained and unusual marks like bruises or scratches
• More sensitive than normal
• Jumpiness, nervousness
• Showing signs of undue stress
Bullies are a Pain in the Brain
Bullying doesn’t only take a physical toll, but a mental and emotional toll as well. In many cases, a bully may not even touch another child. It is important to help your child understand that bullies don’t have to get physical to be bullies. Someone they may think of as a friend can tear their self-esteem down quickly if they don’t recognize behavior like name calling, exclusion, and put-downs as bullying. All of these things can be a major blow to a child’s confidence.
Teach your child all the the signs of bullying and let them know that even if they are not being bullied, they can identify issues with their friends and offer support or get an adult involved. Recognize that peer pressure plays a big part in children’s lives and identifying not only bullied children, but the bullies themselves, is essential in redirecting children onto the right path. As hard as it can be to admit, sometimes our own children can turn out to be the bully without realizing it or without our knowledge. If they understand the overall elements of bullying, they will be more likely to recognize the behavior in themselves and others and put a stop to it.
Bullies are All About Power
Remember the advice we heard so often as children? “Ignore your bully and they’ll go away!” Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. Bullies have to be dealt with, ignoring them is not the answer. Some may have gotten different advice; “fight back and he/she will back down.” Assuming bullies have low self-esteem and fighting fire with fire may not work in these cases. Trying to get even with a bully or to use physical force will usually escalate things beyond the bullied child’s control.
Tips for Kids and Parents Dealing with a Bully:
• Tell an adult
• Follow your instincts
• Show confidence
• Use Your Best Judgement
• Refuse to believe what Bullies say about you
• Use humor to diffuse threatening situations
• Try to avoid the bully when possible
Bullies are all about power and not giving in to them can go a long way. This goes back to having and exuding confidence. Encourage your child to practice confident responses to situations they find themselves in either in the mirror or with you. Diffusing the situation with humor shows even more confidence and can be a great way to get out of a challenging spot. Remind them that bullying occurs many times out of jealousy and no matter what they are being bullied about, their smarts, kindness or shyness are never things to be ashamed of.
Talking is Your Secret Weapon
Most of all, it is important to talk with your child (and if applicable, their school, coach, etc.) about these situations, especially if you suspect they are being bullied. Let them know they are not alone, bullying can feel very isolating. Even if they say they don’t want to talk about it, addressing their insecurities and feelings is very important for their well-being and to make sure they know you are there for them. This time in a child’s life is a challenging one for parents and kids alike, but with you on their side they are winning half the battle. Making yourself available will help make it easier for them to confide in you as they get older and situations become even more serious. Discover our resources to help kids build confidence and give them the tools to take on the world!