Bullying: A Parent’s Guide for Help
There are three general roles that exist when we are talking about bullying.
- The bully. The person who is asserting power over another.
- The victim. The person who the power is being asserted on and typically the weaker one who is getting picked on.
- The bystander. The person or persons who are witness to the bullying. Bystanders may be innocent observers or those who stand along with the bully, but don’t do any of the direct bullying themselves.
When we speak about bullying we are talking about repeated actions from one person against another and where there is an imbalance of power between the bully and the victim. The victim is treated poorly by the bully through words (name calling), actions (eye rolling, hitting, tripping), or relational bullying (exclusion, gossiping).
Bullying in school
As a parent, you should expect your child’s school keep you informed into what is being done to resolve bullying situations at school. Schools are reluctant to address any bullying issues outside of school grounds, but you can (and should) request that they take care of any situations that occur on school property with your child. Inquire into when to expect school staff to follow-up with you and with the parties involved with the incident.
Tips for helping your kids, no matter what role they play:
My kid is the bully
It is hard for most parents to hear that their child has made some poor choices and have been unkind to others. Sadly, some families don’t see any problem with their child being rude to others or pushing them around. They seem to think that it is just part of life and they support their child making these detrimental choices. However, chances are that if you are taking the time to read this it is because you truly care about your child and want the best for them; you are not one of those parents who just don’t get how to raise their kid.
Take note of these interventions for your little cherub who has turned out to be a bully (hopefully just temporarily).
1. Provide your child with consistent consequences for their behavior. If the school and you provide for positive (for good behavior) and negative (for poor behavior) consequences for your child’s actions, chances are that their behavior will improve.
2. Work together with your child to come up with and agree on rules of how to treat others and how to behave. This needs to be done when there are no distractions. Build in praise and rewards when these rules are followed. A school report can be created to allow you to get a daily report on how your child is doing with following through with these rules.
3. Discuss and role play with your child on how to positively handle a stressful situation. Present options such as walking away, using the stop, think, go strategy (stop what you are doing, think of a positive choice, go do that positive choice) taking deep breaths, talking with an adult, and counting to 50 as ways to manage frustrations vs. taking it out on others.
4. Never, ever use physical punishment. This teaches your child that it is okay to hit others and to be unkind. This is completely opposite of what you are trying to teach your child. Being a positive role model for your child is a must and showing that you hit to solve your problems will encourage them to do the same.
5. Keep your child busy in extracurricular activities and encourage them to hang around peers who make positive choices.
6. Know who your child’s friends are and who they are spending their social time with.
7. Include your child in a structured social group where social norms are addressed and practiced with others under the guidance of a trained mental health professional.
8. Build in one-on-one time with your child everyday to play a game, talk about their day, or plan an activity to do on the weekend together. Spending time together shows that you care and want to be part of every aspect of their life. You can even tell them this while spending time together.
9. Say, “I love you” everyday.
Our bully page will provide you with many more ideas to help support your child in changing their behavior along with a thorough look into the functioning of a bully.
My kid is the victim
Sadness, helplessness, anger, and more are examples of feelings that you and your child may feel if they become a victim of bullying. Although we know that bullying occurs, we also know that it is never okay. You have a large job now 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. Work with your child to focus on their positive aspects. Further develop these traits and praise them for how great they are and how many great things they can do.
2. 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.
3. Discuss social situations, give examples of how to solve the problems, and role play the solutions as to increase your child’s confidence.
4. Provide unconditional love and support to help counteract past bullying issues and to provide confidence with managing future social issues.
5. Do not be overprotective. Encourage your child to use the skills you are teaching. Promoting them to be independent will help them to feel greater success and will be a positive force in helping to develop friendships with others.
6. Arrange for play dates at your home with peers who are make positive choices and who your child gets along with.
7. 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.
8. Include your child in a structure social group where confidence and assertiveness skills are addressed under the guidance of a trained mental health professional.
Care and advocacy must be taken to help victims. Read more on this important topic by visiting our victim page.
My kid is a bystander
Picture your child coming home taking about a bully situation that they witnessed. Perhaps your child feels scared, worried, or maybe even impressed with what they saw. Whatever the feeling or perception of what they saw, now is the time to swoop in to the rescue. Your time to be a supportive parent is now.
1. Listen to your child’s thoughts and feelings about what they saw. Show empathy by reiterating what they are telling you so that they know that you are hearing and understanding them. Then ask them to listen to you. Share your thoughts, ask them how they think the victim felt/feels, and plan with them on how they can be a helpful bystander in the future. Some ideas include telling the bully to stop, walking away from the situation with the victim, or going to find an adult to help.
2. Role play how to be helpful bystander. Even ask one of their friends to participate. Not only is this fun, but it is a practical way to teach your child how to handle a tough situation such as witnessing bullying.
3. Use other situations that your child is exposed to during the day to lend itself to the conversation of how to make positive and helpful decisions. These ‘other situations’ could be ones seen on television, read about in a book, family dilemmas, or other interactions. Challenge your child to identify what they would do if they were in the given situation or were serving as a bystander.
4. If needed, talk with school staff or other adults who are caring for your child when they are out of your supervision. Let them know what is going on and what to look for. They are the best individuals to support your child if needed when you are not around.
5. Teach and show empathy for your child or student and for others. Discuss what empathy and respect are. Work together to brainstorm ways to show empathy and respect everyday. When one has empathy for others, they truly care and understand how others feel. By showing empathy, respect naturally becomes part of everyday behavior.
6. Empower children to intervene in bullying situations safely. Tell them to do so by having peers with them as they tell a bully to stop, walk to the victim and take them out of the situation, or go immediately to an adult for help. If they ever feel uncomfortable with directly intervening in a situation, even with the company of peers, that is okay. They can always find the nearest adult to help and know that they have been a helpful bystander.
Help for the bystander does not end here. For a further discussion including additional strategies to help the bystander visit our Bystanders: Please STAND UP! page.