Tips For Dealing With Bullies
Information from Nationwide Children's Hospital
For parents of kids that are bullies:
- Take bullying seriously. Make sure your kids understand that you will not tolerate bullying at home or anywhere else. Establish rules about bullying and stick to them. If you punish your child by taking away privileges, be sure it's meaningful. For example, if your child bullies other kids via email, text messages, or a social networking site, dock phone or computer privileges for a period of time. If your child acts aggressively at home, with siblings or others, put a stop to it. Teach more appropriate (and nonviolent) ways to react, like walking away.
- Teach kids to treat others with respect and kindness. Teach your child that it is wrong to ridicule differences (i.e., race, religion, appearance, special needs, gender, economic status) and try to instill a sense of empathy for those who are different. Consider getting involved together in a community group where your child can interact with kids who are different.
- Learn about your child's social life. Look for insight into the factors that may be influencing your child's behavior in the school environment (or wherever the bullying is occurring). Talk with parents of your child's friends and peers, teachers, guidance counselors, and the school principal. Do other kids bully? What about your child's friends? What kinds of pressures do the kids face at school? Talk to your kids about those relationships and about the pressures to fit in. Get them involved in activities outside of school so that they meet and develop friendships with other kids.
- Encourage good behavior. Positive reinforcement can be more powerful than negative discipline. Catch your kids being good - and when they handle situations in ways that are constructive or positive, take notice and praise them for it.
- Set a good example. Think carefully about how you talk around your kids and how you handle conflict and problems. If you behave aggressively - toward or in front of your kids - chances are they'll follow your example. Instead, point out positives in others, rather than negatives. And when conflicts arise in your own life, be open about the frustrations you have and how you cope with your feelings.
For parents of kids that are being bullied:
- Avoid the bully and use the buddy system. Use a different bathroom if a bully is nearby and don't go to your locker when there is nobody around. Make sure you have someone with you so that you're not alone with the bully. Buddy up with a friend on the bus, in the hallways, or at recess - wherever the bully is. Offer to do the same for a friend.
- Hold the anger. It's natural to get upset by the bully, but that's what bullies thrive on. It makes them feel more powerful. Practice not reacting by crying or looking red or upset. It takes a lot of practice, but it's a useful skill for keeping off of a bully's radar. Sometimes kids find it useful to practice "cool down" strategies such as counting to 10, writing down their angry words, taking deep breaths or walking away. Sometimes the best thing to do is to teach kids to wear a "poker face" until they are clear of any danger (smiling or laughing may provoke the bully).
- Act brave, walk away, and ignore the bully. Firmly and clearly tell the bully to stop, then walk away. Practice ways to ignore the hurtful remarks, like acting uninterested or texting someone on your cell phone. By ignoring the bully, you're showing that you don't care. Eventually, the bully will probably get bored with trying to bother you.
- Tell an adult. Teachers, principals, parents, and lunchroom personnel at school can all help stop bullying.
- Talk about it. Talk to someone you trust, such as a guidance counselor, teacher, sibling, or friend. They may offer some helpful suggestions, and even if they can't fix the situation, it may help you feel a little less alone.
- Remove the incentives. If the bully is demanding your lunch money, start bringing your lunch. If he's trying to get your music player, don't bring it to school.
- Signs of emotional distress during or after using the Internet
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Avoidance of school or group gatherings
- Slipping grades and "acting out" in anger at home
- Changes in mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite
- Block the bully. Most devices have settings that allow you to electronically block emails, IMs, or text messages from specific people.
- Limit access to technology. Although it's hurtful, many kids who are bullied can't resist the temptation to check Web sites or phones to see if there are new messages. Keep the computer in a public place in the house (no laptops in children's bedrooms, for example) and limit the use of cell phones and games. Some companies allow you to turn off text messaging services during certain hours, which can give bullied kids a break.
- Know your kids' online world. Check their postings and the sites kids visit, and be aware of how they spend their time online. Talk to them about the importance of privacy and why it's a bad idea to share personal information online, even with friends. Encourage them to safeguard passwords.
If your child agrees, you may also arrange for mediation with a therapist or counselor at school who can work with your child and/or the bully.
Dealing with cliques:
- Talk about your own experiences. Share your own experiences of school - cliques have been around for a long time!
- Help put rejection in perspective. Remind your child of times he or she has been angry with parents, friends, or siblings - and how quickly things can change.
- Shed some light on social dynamics. Acknowledge that people are often judged by the way a person looks, acts, or dresses, but that often people act mean and put others down because they lack self-confidence and try to cover it up by maintaining control.
- Find stories they can relate to. Many books, TV shows, and movies portray outsiders triumphing in the face of rejection and send strong messages about the importance of being true to your own nature and the value of being a good friend, even in the face of difficult social situations. For school-age kids, books like "Blubber" by Judy Blume illustrate how quickly cliques can change. Older kids and teens might relate to movies such as "Mean Girls," "Angus," "The Breakfast Club," and "Clueless" or the new TV show "Aliens in America."
- Foster out-of-school friendships. Get kids involved in extracurricular activities (if they aren't already) - art class, martial arts, horse riding, language study - any activity that gives them an opportunity to create another social group and learn new skills.