But as parents we have the power to help reduce bullying and improve self-esteem.
- Talk with and listen to your kids – everyday Research shows that parents are often the last to know when their child has bullied or been bullied. You can encourage your children to break that trend by chatting to them regularly about their social lives naturally and easily.Keep the tone light and be genuinely interested so you can nip things in the bud if you hear something that rings alarm bells.If your children feel comfortable talking to you about their peers and friends before they’re involved in a bullying event, they’ll be much more likely to get you involved after.
- Spend time building your child’s self-confidence
Talk to your child about their body language, the way they walk and talk to others and build up their self- esteem. Bullies sense weakness and fear and it’s about giving your child the aura and genuine sense of confidence so they don’t fall prey to that.
- Be a good example of kindness and leadership
Your kids learn a lot about power relationships from watching you. When you get angry at a waiter, a sales assistant, another driver on the road, or even your child, you have a great opportunity to model effective communication technique, respect and tolerance.
- Learn the signs
Most children don’t tell anyone (especially adults) that they’ve been bullied. It’s therefore really important for you, your family and teachers to learn to recognize the possible signs of being victimized such as a frequent loss of your child’s personal belongings, their sudden complaints of headaches or stomach-aches, avoiding playtimes or school activities, getting to school very late or very early, not eating properly or not sleeping well.
- Create healthy anti-bullying habits early
Coach your children what not to do – hitting, pushing, teasing or being mean or unkind to others, as early as Nursery.Don’t be afraid to teach your children what to do positively – show others kindness, empathy, fair play, turn-taking, and compassion which are all important skills for good peer relations and life generally.Children also need to learn how to say “no” firmly. Teach your child about what to do if other kids are unkind to them – get an adult right away, tell the child who is teasing or bullying to “stop,” walk away and ignore the bully.
- Help your child’s school address bullying effectivelyWhether your children have been bullied or not, you should know what their school is doing to address bullying.Go and find out what your child’s school bullying policy is and if your school doesn’t have effective bullying strategies and policies in place, talk to the Head teacher and your PTA and become an agent for change.
- Establish household rules about bullying
Your children need to hear from you explicitly that it’s not normal, OK, or tolerable for them to bully, to be bullied, or to stand by and just watch other kids be bullied.Make sure they know that if they are bullied physically, verbally, or socially (at school, by a sibling, in your neighborhood, or online) it’s OK and safe and very important for them to tell you about it and that you will help. They need you to believe them.
- Teach your child how to be a good witness
Research shows that kids who witness bullying feel powerless and seldom intervene. However, kids who take action can have a powerful and positive effect on the situation.Although it’s never a child’s responsibility to put themself in danger, kids can often effectively diffuse a bullying situation by yelling “Stop! You’re bullying!” Kids can also help each other by providing support to the victim and not giving extra attention to the bully.
- Teach your child about cyber bullying
Cyber bullying includes sending unkind, rude, vulgar, or threatening messages or images, posting sensitive, private information about another person, pretending to be someone else in order to make that person look bad, and intentionally excluding someone from an online group.These acts are as harmful as physical violence and shouldn’t be tolerated either. We know from research that the more time a teen spends online, the more likely they will be cyber bullied – so limit online time.
- Be brave to speak out that bullying should not be a normal part of childhoodSome adults hesitate to act when they observe or hear about bullying because they think of bullying as a typical phase of childhood that must be endured or that it can help children “toughen up”.
All forms of bullying are truly harmful to the perpetrator, the victim, and to the witnesses and the effects often stay with a person all their life and can lead in some cases to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, family violence and criminal behavior.
Bullying is an enormous problem and we all need to be proactive and collaborate, but if we all work together, we can make a difference.
“Within eight weeks of beginning the Reading Kingdom, Ben’s progress was enormous. Each day that we continue the programs, he improves. It has also boosted his self-esteem. “– Gail Weiner, parent