Bullying is a Thing.

We all deal with it at some point in our life. Whether it is as a child or in the workplace with hostile coworkers (who may not even realize they are hostile). I wasn’t ‘popular’ in middle/high school, whatever you want to define popular as. I got along with others, but I didn’t develop a lot of lasting friendships. My best friend growing up is still my friend, and I am thankful for that friendship.

Over the weekend I went to her second daughter’s 4th birthday party and learned something.

I learned that one of our friends was bullied and picked on in school. He reached out to her recently because now his child is getting picked on in school. He told her that he was thankful he became friends with our small circle because things got better for him after that.

We never knew he was picked on or bullied. You never know the difference you can make in someone’s life, just by BEING PRESENT. Someone in my family was bullied at school as well. Someone stood up for them and gave that bully a bloody nose. Nobody messed with them after that. It was a lesson learned, but violence doesn’t always have to be the answer.

Kids deal with bullying, and sometimes it is a form of stereotyping that children do not even realize they are doing. Another child may look different, or dress different, and it is pointed out. All of a sudden, a bully is born by accident. We are all guilty of stereotyping at some point.

I went to a stand-up comedy show last week and although funny, a comedians joke hit the stereotyping nail on the head… the joke was

If a white man comes into a movie theater with a trench coat, you better get out …but if it’s a black man with a trench coat, sit next to him- he’s gonna have the best snacks. He might even sell you a bootleg copy of the movie you are watching.”

Implying the white man is going to shoot the place up, but the black man is sneaking snacks in and selling pirated movies. It was a pretty funny joke and everyone laughed. It’s okay. You can laugh, you know you stereotype too (:

So… How do you address bullying as a parent?

Do you just send your kid to school and hope for the best? I do not have a child, so I cannot imagine the pain parents go through with this. 

Bullying awareness and acceptance of others is one way to address bullying as a parent. I did a little research and came up with three highlights on addressing bullying as a parent from stopbullying.gov

1. Identify Bullying

Although these are not the only characteristics used to identify bullying, these are some of the most common identifiers.

SIGNS OF BEING BULLIED: Unexplained injuries, lost/destroyed belongings, headaches, stomach aches, skipping meals, binge eating, coming home from school hungry, frequent nightmares, declining grades, not wanting to go to school, suddenly not wanting to leave the house or go to school, decreased self-esteem, self-destructive behavior
 

SIGNS OF BEING A BULLY: Physical/verbal fights, new belongings, unexplained extra money, blames others for wrongdoing, frequent issues at school, aggressive behavior, extremely competitive, little respect for others, worried about reputation/popularity

THOSE WITH THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERISTICS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE BULLIED: overweight, underweight, wears glasses, being new to a school, being unable to afford what other kids think are ‘cool’, weak, depressed, anxious, few friends

THOSE WITH THE FOLLOWING CHARACTERISTICS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BULLY OTHERS:  view violence in a positive way, easily frustrated, little parental involvement, issues at home, negative thinking, difficulty following rules, overly concerned with popularity

2. Talk to Your Child and Be Encouraging

Make sure your child understands what bullying is and how to stand up for themselves safely. When I was in high school, there was a student who had a learning disability, and when he was picked on he used humor to deal with the stigma. It became accepted and those who picked on him didn’t think it was fun to pick on him anymore. This tactic does not work for everyone, so it may be necessary to teach your kid how to say, “Stop,” with confidence and just walk away. If a bully tends to follow your child, teach your child strategies to stay safe (like walking towards a group of adults or kids that the bully does not pick with).

It is also important to keep open communication with your child. They may feel it is unnecessary, but this could really help one day because they know that avenue is open. Research by StopBullying indicates that children look up to parents and caregivers for advice on tough decisions. You can open conversation by asking leading questions such as

  • What was one good thing that happened today? Any bad things?
  • What was lunch like today at school?
  • What do you like best about school?

Find out what your child likes and help them find activities that relate to their interests. This will help them boost their self-esteem and develop relationships with other children.

3. Understand Policies, Laws, and Resources

If your child is a victim of bullying that is affecting their personality, obtain a copy of the school policy on bullying. Lawmakers have put actions into place to prevent bullying and protect children. Each state addresses bullying differently. Cyber bullying has become a very popular bullying tactic in today’s world- for adults and children. I have been cyber bullied and it left me in tears, so I can imagine what it would do to a young adult. A picture can go viral across a school campus in a matter of minutes.

In Alabama, Anti-bullying laws and regulations cover cyberbullying on and off school property. Teachers and other staff members must receive training on bullying topics as well. Alabama anti-bullying laws do not create expectations for parental involvement in addressing bullying behavior. The laws are created mainly to provide a structure that prevents bullying and establish procedures to following when bullying occurs. Policies that are created by the districts establish things such as a definition of bullying, clearly defined procedure for students to report bullying, description of behavior expected of each student, procedure for investigation of reports, etc.

If your child is a bully to others, this can be a very tough subject. It is important to try to get to the root cause of why your child is bullying others and try to help your child instead of just punishing them and leaving it at that. Like I mentioned earlier, everyone stereotypes. Anyone can be a bully. Bullies are not necessarily ‘bad’ kids, and we need to keep that in mind. A child struggling with issues may use the opportunity to bully others as their outlet. On the other hand, that may not be the case. That is why there are resources available and anti-bullying laws to help provide structure to dealing with these issues.

Resources for bullying can be found online in many places, and if you contact a school counselor they may be able to provide local resources or guidance on your specific situations.

CyberSmile.org has a list of helplines available, including a 24/7 Stop Bullying Now Hotline setup by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that anyone can call for assistance. Helpline numbers can be found at the web-page below:

https://www.cybersmile.org/advice-help/category/who-to-call

More information and resources on bullying can be found online at:

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