The victim in a bullying situation is described as the target of intentional harm my means of name calling, theft, exclusion, physical abuse, and more. The victim has less power than the bully and endures mistreatment again and again to the point of many victims having low self-esteem, experiencing fear, helplessness, anger, hopelessness, loneliness, and/or sadness.
Although we know that bullying occurs, we also know that it is never okay. You have a large job as the parent to work as hard as you can with your child to get the bullying to stop. With your support and the support of the adults in charge while you are away from your child, rising above this difficult situation can occur.
1. Do NOT be an overprotective parent. Research has shown that overprotective parents produce children who lack assertiveness and connections with same-aged peers. Even if you think that you are not an overprotective parent, take a good long look at the ways that you may be sheltering your child from age-appropriate activities or life events. What is considered age-appropriate? Take a look at our developmental milestones page for a look at what to expect from your children given their age.
2. Work with your child to focus on the positive aspects of themselves. Further develop these traits and praise them for how great they are and how many great things they can do.
3. Ensure that your child is never left unsupervised. Whether with supported peers or caring adults, it is good practice for your child to always have someone by their side. Flying solo may entice the bully to continue the mistreatment.
4. Teach and practice assertiveness skills with your child. Helpful tools include walking with confidence, using an assertive voice to communicate their needs and wants, and hanging around a positive peer group.
5. Discuss social situations, give examples of how to solve problems, and role play as to increase your child’s confidence. Great ideas to manage a bullying situation include: ignoring, walking away from the situation, telling an adult that you need help, responding to verbal remarks by saying, “That is your opinion.” and then walking away, and standing up for yourself by firmly telling the bullying to stop.
6. Tell your child to NEVER hit, yell, or show frustration with the bully. These things may get your child into trouble and will definitely cause a bullying situation to get worse. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Even in the name of “he started it” both parties will suffer consequences.
7. Tell your child to report every single incident of bullying to teachers or other caregivers. They also need to report these incidences to you as well. It may be helpful to develop a non-verbal signal between your child and teachers/caregivers as to allow for communication without your child feeling worried that others may overhear.
8. Provide unconditional love and support to help counteract past bullying issues and to provide confidence with managing future social issues.
9. Encourage your child to use the skills you are teaching them. Promoting your child to be independent will help them to feel greater success and will be a positive force in helping them develop friendships with others.
10. Arrange for play dates at your home with peers who are make positive choices and with whom your child gets along with. These play dates should encourage a strong peer support network for your child.
11. Speak with teachers, school counselors, or any other adult with whom your child is entrusted to daily. Working together will help to resolve this situation. Ask the school counselor to work with your child to reinforce positive self-advocacy skills. You can also request that your child be placed with their friends in order to help them feel most comfortable and safe.
12. Include your child in a structure social group where confidence and assertiveness skills are addressed under the guidance of a trained mental health professional.
13. Encourage your child to exercise and to play sports. Sports can help to increase their confidence, coordination, and physical abilities. Playing sports also allows them to meet new peers and to make new friends.
The Provocative Victim
In my profession I have encountered many circumstances where I have seen what we call provocative victims. These children are commonly picked on by others but are also displaying behaviors that cause irritation and annoyance to peers around them. This combination frequently presents itself as a cycle of negative behaviors and victimization.
From personal experience, I have seen provocative victims use behaviors such as talking over others, touching others’ belongings without asking, make statements that show a lack of empathy such as, “Who cares what you want”, failing to use age-appropriate social skills, are impulsive in their actions, and more.
To address the needs of the provocative victim it is best to use a combination of interventions listed for the victim and also for the bully. Of greatest help to provocative victims would be counseling to help them to improve their social skills and self-advocacy skills.