As I mentioned in a previous post about Parent-Teacher Conferences, I am in charge of Parent Education for the parent-teacher association (PTA) of my kids’ elementary school. And any time I share with the parents something of interest – whether it be a speaker, reading material or an Internet site – my goal is to share that information here.
I have already covered the importance of parent-teacher conferences and another on learning about the apps your kids are using. This past week, I brought in a speaker to talk about bullying and how to empower your child to Stand UP.
The presentation was called “Don’t Stand By, Stand Up!” and it was presented through the Texas PTA’s Ready, Set, Achieve program. Our presenter was Dr. Sylvia Reyna, a retired Texas teacher, principal and superintendent.
The first thing was to define bullying and address that conflict is not necessarily bullying. To define bullying, they use the abbreviation RIP.
R – Repeated over time
I – Intentional – behavior intends to cause harm or distress.
P – There is a real or perceived imbalance of power.
So a child accidentally bumping into another (not intentional) is not bullying. A child kicks another once while in the lunch line (not repeated) is not bullying. And for the imbalance of power, you are looking at someone who is larger than the victim or has “power” over them. This could be a fifth grader or crossing guard intimidating a first grader.
One of her facts that concerned me as Jase is about to enter 6th grade is that bullying most often happens in middle school. I guess this is all the more reason to learn about the signs your child is being bullied and what to do to help them not to be a victim.
Signs your child is being bullied
Now this is not an exclusive list. There can be other signs and these signs can be other problems besides bullying.
- Unexplained injuries, lost or destroyed clothing, books, belongings
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking an illness
- Changes in eating habits like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves
Signs your child is bullying others
Children who bully are more likely to get in fights, steal, vandalize property, drink alcohol, or drop out of school. And research shows 60% of boys who were bullies in middle school had at least on conviction by the age of 24.
- Get into physical or verbal fights
- Have friends who bully others
- Are increasingly aggressive
- Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
- Have unexplained extra money or belongings
- Blame others for their problems
- Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
- Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
It would be naïve to assume your child is never going to be bullied. So the best thing to do is prepare them (and yourself) for when it happens.
What Students can do
One of the best tools to prepare your child is to practice or role play what to do when they are confronted by a bully.
- Learn to be assertive (rather than aggressive)
- Ask the bully to stop and then walk away
- Ignore the behavior/leave the situation
- Use social skills, humor or agree with the bully (You aren’t agreeing with that bullying is correct but more of a sarcastic “yeah, right” type attitude)
- Avoid escalating the situation with anger, retaliation or encouraging others to gang up on the bully
- Do not cry or act hurt in front of the bully.
- Report bullying to an adult
Reporting bullying can be hard as many children fear a backlash from the kid who bullied them, or they may feel they are seen as weak or a tattletale. They may think no one will believe them. They can fear rejection from their peers or that no one can understand.
If your child witnesses bullying, they should make sure they aren’t giving the bully the audience they crave. They should tell the bully to stop or seek immediate help. Basically, they need to Stand UP and Not Stand by.
The way a parent reacts to bullying is also important. If you dismiss the situation or tell them to “suck it up,” you are giving your child all the more reason not to come to you when they have a problem. Bullying can hurt and you should never tell them their feelings or crying are unacceptable (except don’t cry in front of the bully). You, as a parent, need to work on teaching them the social skills of being assertive and self-confident. And most of all you should be an advocate for your child at the school and with the police, if needed.
Now there is even more to her lecture, so I think I will tackle the information on cyber bullying in a separate post. But before I sign off for today, I wanted to provide these links for students, parent and teachers to become more informed about bullying and how to prevent it.
STRYVE – Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere
Be sure to check next Thursday’s blog for information on cyber-bullying.