According to a 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation study “Teasing and bullying were first on the minds of children when asked what threatens their safety and emotional well-being.”
The National Youth Violence Prevention Center, agrees with this grim statistic: “Almost 30 percent of youth in the United States (over 5.7 million) are estimated to be involved in bullying either as a bully, a target of bullying, or both” making potentially every child in the public school system is involved in bullying either as a bully, as a target, or as a bystander who witnesses the bullying of another child.
What is Bullying?
Bullying is an intentionally aggressive behavior which includes both physical and verbal abuse. “Bullying” is insulting, name-calling, intimidating, physically assaulting, and forcing social exclusion and isolation upon a peer.
Bullying usually occurs in places where there is little adult supervision: at the bus stop, in the school hallway or the school bathroom, also in the cafeteria and on the playground. Bullying is also common during unsupervised play dates and during neighborhood play gatherings.
Who are the Victims of Bullies?
There are certain qualities and characteristics which increase a child’s chances of becoming a victim of bullying.
Surprisingly they’re not physical characteristics such as being overweight or wearing glasses, but rather emotional and social vulnerability: kids who are cautious, sensitive, don’t exhibit a good sense of humor, are uncomfortable in groups, or prefer to be alone are the preferred targets for a bully.
How to Stop Bullying: What to Do
Parents can help stop children from being bullied. Here are some tips:
- Do thank the child for telling a parent about the bullying. Parents should actively listen to their child being sure to not interrupt as he talks about the bullying. Parents may want to share their own experiences with childhood bullying and tell how they handled it when they were children.
- Do assure the child that the bullying is not his own fault. Parents should validate their child’s right to safety and also ask what the child needs the parent or the school to do in order for the child to feel safe.
- Do take action. Parents need to set up a meeting with the child’s teacher and the school’s principal to find out what anti-bullying efforts are in place. Together, parents and school officials should make a plan to separate the victim from the bully or at the very least to have more supervision of their interactions.
Once the place is in place, parents should have daily check-ins with the child and weekly check-ins with the school to make sure the plan is being successfully implemented.
How to Stop Bullies: What Not to Do
There are also things to avoid doing when helping a victim of bullying.
- Don’t contact the bully’s parents. Bullying is a learned behavior and there is a good possibility that one or both parents are bullies themselves. Adult bullies often deny that their child is a bully and they may even accuse the victim of lying in order to hurt the bully’s reputation or cause trouble for the family in order to take the negative focus off the bully.
- Don’t ignore the problem or tell the child to “tough it out.” A bullied child needs help and intervention before he suffers permanent psychological damage from bullying.
- Don’t accuse the child’s teacher of not doing her job. Chances are she hasn’t witnessed the bullying or she doesn’t realize the seriousness of the situation. The teacher is a parent’s ally and should be treated as such.
Bullying Solutions: Bullying Books, Websites and More
The U.K. celebrates Anti Bullying Week, an annual event to raise awareness about bullying. The Anti-Bullying Week website offers free anti-bullying activities, free anti-bullying posters, details about how to get an anti-bullying resource pack for primary and secondary schools and much more.
BeatBullying.org is a great site with helpful information for parents and kids, including interactive assessments like the risk assessment tool, what to do tips for kids, and more.
The Everything Parent’s Guide to Dealing with Bullies by Deborah Carpenter (F&W Media, ISBN 1605500542) is an exceptional resource for parents covering all forms of bullying from playground teasing to cyber bullying.
The most important thing the parent of a bullied child can do it to stay involved because ignoring the problem helps bullying to thrive.
If every parent insisted on accountability and action, bullying would be far less common; parents and children must continue to stand up against bullying in order to create a safe and happy future for all children.