Is Bullying a Big Problem in Your Family?
Unfortunately, bullying has always been around and is actually natural, being a product of crowd behaviour in a competitive society - echoing animal behaviour in the wild.
Estimates of bullying among children point to ten to fifteen percent of any group of children repeatedly bullying others while a similar percentage of children are repeatedly targeted by bullying children. It is said that targeted children often feel silenced and filled with fear as they wait and hope for help. But those bystanders who might help often feel paralysed by the horror in front of them and feel powerless.
There is a recently published book called "Bully-Proof Kids, Practical Tools to Help Your Child to Grow Up Confident, Resilient and Strong" by Stella O'Malley which concerned parents might find helpful.
There are pointers listed below to aid parents.
What if your child is the victim of bullying?
- Work out how to reintroduce old friends who could provide respite.
- Through active listening and gentle questioning (over a series of conversations) work out who are the bullies, the sidekicks, the bystanders and especially potential upstanders. The latter group may not be your child's friend but could be the one or ones to speak out.
- Work out patterns so they can anticipate challenging behavior. For instance, it might be that the worst of the bullying happens during lunch break, before school or on the school bus.
- Watch carefully chosen movies and online videos with your child to remind them that this is an experience that many brilliant and kind people face or have faced - and that the fault lies with the bullies.
- Be extra gentle with your child, accepting that they might get upset easily over the slightest issue. Cook them their favorite meals, buy little treats for them and show that you care deeply.
What if your child is the actual bully?
- Show that you recognize that there is a problem, sitting your child down and explaining how they will be happier when they are kinder - and how you will help them to do this.
- Empathy can be taught - and is essential for the child that has fallen into bullying to possess. Help them imagine walking in another person's shoes. Note expressions on people's faces and explain to your child how they might be feeling.
- Teach them about healthy and unhealthy leadership, providing good role models from history or politics.
- Teach them coping skills. Many children slip into bullying behavior without realising that their lack of such skills is the problem.
- Teach them the difference between "laughing with" and "laughing at". Bullying is often rooted in cruel humor. Make sure your child's needs for power are served in healthier ways.
How the book can help going forward
With the ongoing and often growing problem of bullying, it becomes more important than ever to equip our children with the ability to handle tricky people in a way that will help them to tap into their inner strength.
The author, Stella O'Mally, says: "From reading my book, parents should be able to help their child to reduce the impact, reduce the frequency, reduce the intensity and reduce the hollow feelings of shame, anger and isolation that often arise as a result of bullying; and that can make all the difference."