Bullying is defined as “mean, hurtful behavior that occurs repeatedly in a relationship with an imbalance of power or strength.” Little Steps has chatted with Dr. Quratulain Zaidi about recommended tips for recognizing and dealing with bullying behavior.
Bullying is such a broad topic but here, parents can find:
* Understanding the different types of bullying: Verbal, Physical, Relational, Cyber.
* Find signs and symptoms you might notice if your child is being bullied.
* Tips and ideas on helping your child deal with bullying. Bullying can be a very emotional time for a child but also for you as parents.
We can often feel helpless and lost on how to help our children. All the tips in this article can be used with any type of bullying. All children and families are unique, so not one size fits all, so it’s best to find the best ideas for you and grow from there.
Verbal bullying could be name calling, teasing, etc. An example of this could be: When a child says to another child, "You’ve got big ears like an elephant." Spot the signs of this type of bullying including: Your child may withdraw, become moody, show changes in eating and appetite. They may tell you that someone said something hurtful and check in with you as to whether you believe it to be true. A child may also become fixated on a part of their body e.g. their ears if this is something that they are being bullied about.
Tips For Parents:
* Teaching your child about respect. Children learn through your own behavior and will mirror you.
* Reinforce how everyone deserves to be treated well. This could be thanking your child’s teachers, praising one of their friends etc
* Talk about self-respect, and help your child to appreciate their strengths.
* Discuss and practice safe, constructive ways your child can respond to a bully.
* Don’t charge off demanding to see the head teacher, the bully, or the bully’s parents. This is usually the very reaction children dread and can cause bullying to get worse.
Relational bullying (bullying with exclusionary tactics), involves deliberately preventing someone from being part of a group or joining in. An example of this would be: A group of girls at lunchtime talk to each other but treat one of the girls as if they were invisible. Spot the signs of this type of bullying including: mood changes, withdrawal from peer groups, changes in school performance, sleep patterns, a shift toward being alone more than usual etc. This can be more prevalent in girls and can be just as harmful as physical bulling.
Tips For Parents:
* Help your child find things that make them happy and point out positive qualities
* Make sure your child knows there are people who care about them and love them.
* Reassure your child that is isn’t their fault. Some children believe that they have brought it upon themselves.
* Focus on developing their talents and interests and perhaps find activities outside of school to help your child build new relationships.
* Try not to trivialize by saying "no one will remember this next week," or "she wasn’t a good friend anyway." Instead, validate feelings and demonstrate that you understand how your child feels.
* Never dismiss your child’s experience: If your child has plucked up the courage to tell you about bullying, it’s crushing to be told to "sort it out yourself" or "it’s all part of growing up."
Physical bullying is any bullying that hurts someone's body or damages their possessions, this could be stealing, shoving, destroying property, etc. An example of this would be: A child gets purposefully pushed or tripped on their way to class. Spot the signs of this type of bullying including: Children might not feel they can tell their parents when it happens, so watch for possible warning signs like unexplained cuts, bruises, missing items, or damaged clothes.
Tips For Parents:
* If you suspect your child is being physically bullied, try to start a conversation e.g. ask what's going on at school, during lunch, or on the way home. Based on the responses, ask if anyone's been mean to your child.
* Try to keep your emotions in check. Listen without getting upset or angry yourself.
* You might want to explain that sometimes people say or do nasty things because they want a certain reaction or to cause upset, so if your child gives them the impression they’re not bothered, the bullies are more likely to stop.
* Role-play bullying scenarios and practice your child’s responses. Talk about how voice, body and face send messages just the same way our words do.
* Emphasize the value of open, ongoing communication with you, teachers, school counselors, family members etc.
* Never tell your child to hit or shout names back. It simply doesn’t solve the problem and, if your child is under-confident (and most bullied children are) then it just adds to their stress and anxiety.
Cyber bullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology e.g. phones, laptops, social media, websites, text, instant messaging, etc. An example of this would be: When a child tweets something unkind about another. Spot the signs of this type of bullying including: Watch to see if your child spends more time online, but then might appear sad or anxious afterwards or may suddenly shut down a laptop and walk away mid-use.
Tips For Parents:
* One of the main difficulties with cyber bulling is that messages can often be distributed anonymously and can quickly lead to 24/7 bullying, so first work on establishing household rules for Internet safety.
* Agree on age-appropriate time limits.
* Try to find out about the popular and potentially abusive sites, apps etc are before your children use them (we understand this can be extremely difficult).
* Let your child know you will be monitoring their online activities.
* Tell your child that if they experience cyber bullying, they shouldn't engage, respond, or forward it. Instead, they should inform you.
* For more information on cyber-safety, age appropriate e-rules, and technology, click here.