What You Can Do about Bullying
If your heart hurts or you're sick over bullying, there are simple actions that can make a huge difference.
If you are reading this, you already know what a problem bullying is. You may know how hard it is to keep your child safe at school, especially when all of the supposed help hasn't been and isn't helpful. Whether you are one to follow the rules or to take situations into your own hands, it is incredibly difficult to make lasting improvements on bullying. This article includes actions you can take immediately to make a profound difference.
If things are unsafe, it's best to first get outside help from as many avenues as possible. Do not minimize, rationalize or deny the seriousness at hand. Bullying becomes a legal matter when it crosses into criminal behavior, which includes…
· Unwanted physical contact (Physical Assault)
· Unwanted contact resulting in bumps and bruises (Assault with Physical Injury)
· Offensive jokes, name-calling, intimidation - including messages online (Harassment)
· Continued unwanted contact outside of school (Stalking)
It can seem harsh but getting police involvement at the earliest appropriate opportunity can be helpful in getting the attention and help needed for a recurring situation to be appropriately and seriously addressed.
Or maybe things haven't gone that far yet. Either way, some things your child needs you to do, whether it's to become willing to start doing something about a current situation OR to prevent your child from freezing or accepting these experiences include...
Improve your child's self esteem.
Educate to understand appropriate vs inappropriate and safe vs unsafe behavior.
Give them tools for communication and setting boundaries.
Establish relationships and open communication, including with any school staff that wants to be helpful.
If you need help doing any one or all of these - you're not alone. Most adults struggle with some, if not all, of this stuff, too. Help is available, and you could even work on it together (Check out the suggestions in Keeping Kids Safe). It takes time, but books are an excellent way to broach subjects, have hard conversations and learn from others. You can get books from the library (purchase a list of recommended children's books here), seek support groups, therapies and so much more. Just be sure that the help you choose is empowering, rather than encourages your child to identify as and accept being a victim.
Provides in person and online training and coaching specifically for mothers and children on prevention, protection and self defense, including specific offerings for both mom and kids on preventing, avoiding, evading, escaping and squashing bullying.
It's great to feel better about your child getting the attention, encouragement, support and tools needed, but it's helpful to turn your attention to the school, too. The unfortunate truth is that most often even school staff have no idea how to really help. Their focus and expertise are elsewhere, and their hands are often tied with policies and protocols that can be far from effective. In order to prevent suspensions and expulsion for your own child - even as only the victim of bullying - it's important to get acquainted with school policies.
The long term, permanent solution to bullying is addressing school culture to create an environment where bullying simply doesn't pay off.
You can ask to see their policies and procedures for addressing bullying (it's not a bad time to review the others, too) to ensure they are being followed by both you and school staff. Most often, this is where it's obvious to see a huge problem with outdated or unrealistic procedures. We strongly recommend insisting your child's school assesses and updates policies relating to bullying. Drastic improvements can be made through adequate training for school faculty as well as education for the student body. If you need, here is a company that we recommend that does just that:
Citizen Defense Training
Provides training to school faculty and staff, assemblies to students and recommendations on updating school policies to better protect against bullying.
School budget can be an issue. Our experience is with enough pressure from parents, schools are often able to make adjustments in order to find the funding for the expenses of such training. Fundraising and crowdfunding by parents have also been another solution, as well.
If you are a "do-it-yourself" kind of person, you can find further information, direction and encouragement on assessing and encouraging changing your child's school's policies (as well as keeping your kids safe in general) by reading Gavin de Becker's book, Protecting the Gift. If you'd like some encouragement and support, that's okay, too.
Some ADDITIONAL RESOURCES that may be helpful...
Stomp Out Bullying
Provides information and advice for advocates and victims of bullying, cyberbullying, sexting and other forms of abuse.
Federal website with resources on bullying, cyberbullying prevention, responses to bullying.
If there is even just one action in here you can and will take today - you start to make a difference now. Even when it's simple, it can be hard and scary to take this kind of action - that's where a community is a huge help. If you simply share with other parents at your child's school, it is easier to take action together. You can do it! You, your child, your family and your community are worth it!
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