Any place where children gather can be a medium for bullying. It can be at school and afterschool camps, but it can also occur during family gatherings, birthday parties, or any social events for children. Different socio emotional capabilities and lags, personal struggles and self-esteem are major factors.
Parents, caregivers, educators and healthcare providers all work together and play crucial roles in bullying prevention. We are the adults present during these social challenges and we have to be prepared and know how to respond.
First let’s review a definition of bullying from the APA (American Psychological Association)
"Bullying is commonly characterized as aggressive behavior that is a) intended to cause distress or harm b) involves an imbalance of power or strength between aggressor and victim, and c) commonly occurs repeatedly over time" (Limber, 2002; Olweus, 1993; Nansel et al, 2001)
This clarifies to us that we must not rush into calling a single incident bullying and to also be aware if the two children involved are of the same age and strength or not. It is also not adequate to label a preschooler or a very young child as a bully as it is usually not intentional but more reactive at this age.
Types of Bullying:
1. Physical: using any kind of physical force like hitting, kicking, pushing or taking personal belongings.
2. Verbal: includes saying mean things, teasing, name calling or threatening.
3. Psychological: manipulating friendship, social exclusion, spreading rumors, extortion or intimidation
4. Cyber bullying: online application of both verbal and psychological bullying.
The child with Bullying Behavior: is in fact a victim that is reacting to internal frustrations that need to be urgently explored and professionally addressed. This child and his family need to be referred to professional family counseling.
The victim: needs a self-esteem boost and training on how to stand up to the bullying behavior without intimidation. Also reassurance that this happened because of external reasons and not because there is something wrong with them.
Working on encouraging them to talk and that telling for safety is totally different from “snitching “ because that’s what the bullies use to prevent them from reaching out.
The bystander: is anyone standing by during the act of bullying. And those have been shown to have the major role in bullying prevention. When children are raised to stand up for the right, the bullying behavior loses its social support and thus loses its motive.
A Successful simple strategy to teach your child is:
STOP: Coaching the child to be assertive and to say “stop” confidently but in an un provoking way.
WALK: to simply walk away to a safer place.
TALK: The necessity of telling an adult and how it’s totally different from tattling or snitching
Prevention Strategies for parents:
1. Review parenting strategies that will ensure you are raising a confident child who is able to stand up not only for themselves but to speak up for others as well.
If your parenting style depends on fear or intimidation in any way, this teaches your child to be fearful of anyone who seems powerful.
2. Look for signs and symptoms:
- Unexplained refusal or reluctance to go to school
- Unusual anxiety or fear
- Sleep disturbances and nightmares
- Vague physical complaints ( headache-stomach ache)
- Ripped or missing belongings
- Monitoring of social media and making use of modern protection programs
3. Questions and how to ask :
Children usually don’t answer to direct questioning, so it’s preferable to ask how they spent their lunch or how they entertain themselves and others during free time.
You can also ask, if anyone in their class is being subjected to any kind of intimidation.
Or you can watch a related movie and have a supportive comment towards the victim in the movie. This may encourage your child to open up.
4. Coach your child :
Teach the three steps (STOP- WALK- TALK)
Also coach your child on how to be a positive righteous person as a bystander or witness of bullying.
In case of an incident with your child, get in immediate contact with the school counselor or an external counselor if it’s not at school.
5. Listen and Understand:
In case of a disclosure, stay calm and be a good listener giving your child ample time to disclose fully. Avoid extreme facial reactions but show compassion and support.
- Asking your child to ignore it or run away from it.
- Suggesting to fight back, this can lead to a disaster
7. Review Safety:
Help and guide your child on how to stay safe in coordination with others who are involved for protection.
It is a continuous conjoined effort between Educators, parents and family counselors, everyone has to play their role for the wellbeing of the students.
If you suspect your child is a subject of bullying behavior, don’t hesitate to report the incident and reaching out to a counselor or psychologist who can help your child develop resilience and confidence to enable your child to be more resilient and both socially and academically successful.
Anti-Bullying Resources for Parents Cyberbullying
• American Library Association Online Safety Rules and Suggestions http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/foryoungpeople/childrenparents/especiallychildren.cfm#onli ne
o An exhaustive list of web sites, PDF documents, and information on online safety, cyberbullying, and filtering information for parents and children.
• ConnectSafely – http://www.connectsafely.org/
o ConnectSafely.org is the leading interactive resource on the Web for parents, teens, educators – everyone engaged and interested in youth safety on the fixed and mobile social Web.
• Digizen – http://www.digizen.org/
o The Digizen website provides information for educators, parents, and young people. It shares specific advice and resources on issues such as social networking and cyberbullying.
• Net Cetera – http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/net-cetera.aspx
o The Net Cetera campaign provides information and resources about helping kids make safe,
responsible decisions when they're online. • NetSmartz – http://www.netsmartz.org/index.aspx
o NetSmartz is an Internet safety resource from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
• SafeKids.com Online Safety & Civility – http://www.safekids.com/
o Website developed by Larry Magid, author of Child Safety on the Information Highway.
• Webonauts – http://pbskids.org/webonauts/about/
o Webonauts Internet Academy is a web original game for PBS KIDS GO! that gives kids 8- to
10-year-old an opportunity to have some fun while exploring what it means to be a citizen in a web-infused‚ information-rich world.
Bullying in General
o Campaign launched by The U.S. Department of Health & Human Resources.
o Anti-Defamation League website. The ADL sponsors No Place for Hate.
o Sponsored by The Cartoon Network; a good free tip sheet on bullying can be downloaded.
o October is National Bullying Prevention month.
By Dr. Mona Youssri
WSO student counselor
Licensed family counselor