Bullying: What can parents do?
Bullying. Nothing’s worse than learning that your child is being bullied. What can we as parents do to prevent it? How can you support your kid, especially as when they get older the levels of peril they face and the ways in which they handle them can result in serious harm?
I remember my Mum telling me that I had to fight my own battles when I was being bullied at school at the age of 13. Given that the bully came from a family where casual violence was the norm, and I didn’t, it wasn’t a useful answer. I was on my own. So this blog about a man recounting how as a kid his mother had told him to kick the bully’s ass hit a note with me.
A church-going, kindly parent, his ma was teaching her child to stand up for himself. It’s the first bit of advice you see online. But it’s easier said than done. So what can you do to make your child (and you) feel better in a bullying situation? Here’s my common sense guide:
- Go on a self-defence or kick boxing course together
- Ask your kid what they’d say to the bully if they were alone in a room with the bully tied to a chair
- Role play your child standing up to the bully – s/he might not do it in real life, but it’ll let off steam
- Explain to your kid that people who bully have generally been bullied themselves and while you shouldn’t feel sorry for them or excuse them, pity is a good way of looking at their petty and mean behaviour
- If a teacher is bullying, tell the head straightaway. Don’t worry about repercussions or seeming hysterical. If a teacher’s mucking with your child’s emotions challenge the school. I’ve seen parents who have been in the headteacher’s office the next morning and parents who haven’t, and being proactive has always worked
- Do an audit of your kid’s life. Is someone else bullying him or her, even subtly – a childminder, a sibling, a grandparent, you? Bullies seem to sniff out a person who’s already been bullied, and sometimes people don’t realise what they’re doing
- If someone you love has been bullied, be prepared for it to happen again. Unfortunately, bullying is like an indelible mark on your forehead that only other bullies see. Be vigilant that what happened might recur
- Karate chop your kid’s mobile from his or her hand after school. The worse thing is if they’re being bullied at school and it continues throughout the evening on social media. Here are some tips on how to get them off the screens that children look at from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed. (Good luck, though, it won’t be easy). Just let them know that there’s no law that says you have to be on Instagram or snapchat or whatever it is
- Share stories about the times you’ve dealt with bullies in your own life
- Put bullying into perspective. It’s a fact of life as old as the mountains and as bl**dy hard to conquer. As the great bard wrote in The Tempest: “Hell is empty and all the devils are here”
How have you dealt with bullies in your kids’ life? Any tips?