Prevalent amongst school-aged children, bullying is defined as repeated aggressive physical, verbal or psychological torment from a person or group of people toward another person, often in the context of a power imbalance. As a parent, the thought of your child being bullied, or becoming a bully themselves, is unpleasant. Roughly 21 to 49 percent of adolescents report being victims of bullying or cyberbullying in the past year though, making it an important topic to address with children of all ages. Follow the tips below to help your child healthily deal with any bullying they encounter.
Understand the different types of bullying
Bullying and cyberbullying can take many forms. To best address bullying with your child, you need to know the three types of bullying.
Physical bullying occurs when a bully torments their victim through violence, such as hitting, kicking, punching or threatening physical safety.
Relational bullying occurs when a bully threatens their victim’s social standing or reputation through exclusion, rumors and other forms of humiliation.
Cyberbullying occurs when a bully uses electronics to harm their victim through social media, messaging services or texting, online message boards and more.
Know the signs of bullying and cyberbullying
You know to be concerned if your child comes home with bruises or injuries, or tells you they are being picked on, but in most cases, the signs of bullying are much subtler. A child who is being bullied may start to display abnormal behaviors, including heightened anxiety, moodiness and a loss of interest in their favorite activities. A victim of bullying may not eat or sleep as well as usual, and might start inexplicably avoiding certain places like the bus stop or cafeteria where bullying could take place.
Always take bullying seriously
If your child discloses an encounter they have had with bullying, take the discussion seriously, and never write off bullying as a normal part of growing up or “kids being kids.” If you suspect your child may be a victim of bullying, gently ask them about your concerns and let them know it’s important to talk to you or another adult about their experience.
Help your child understand why bullying is wrong
Prevent your child from becoming a bully, and correct any bullying behavior you see, by maintaining a strict no bullying policy in your home. Reward your child for good behavior as well. Lastly, make sure you and other family members in your home are setting a good example of how your child should treat others.
Teach your child to stand up for others who are bullied
Bystanders play an important role in bullying, and can show the victim much-needed support during a difficult time. Make sure your child knows to tell you, a teacher or another trusted adult about any bullying they witness. Also, tell them to make an extra effort to be kind and inclusive to the child being bullied.
Make sure your child knows what to do if he or she is bullied
You hope your child will never become a victim of bullying or cyberbullying, but if they do, preparing them can help them keep their cool and make the situation less traumatic. When confronted by a bully, tell your child to calmly tell the other child to stop, or simply laugh it off to take away the bully’s power. If the situation ever feels unsafe or too painful, tell your child to simply walk away and find an adult. After being bullied, tell your child to report the instance to you or another adult, avoid the bully and to stay near adults. If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, tell them to report it to a trusted adult immediately.
Find more parenting resources and tips
By proactively addressing bullying with your child, you can help them healthily deal with any encounters they may have with bullies – and learn from the experience. Get more useful parenting tips from Baptist Health on the BHealthy Blog.