Dealing with a School Bully
According to the National School Safety Center, bullying has become more and more common in schools, and one child in 10 is the victim of a bully. In a nutshell, bullying can be described as physical or psychological intimidation. The classic image of a bully is a tough boy who fights physically with other kids, but girls can be bullies too. Bullies tease, threaten and hit, but they can also be more subtle than that. The more indirect type of bullying could include spreading rumors about another child or encouraging other kids to isolate a child.
Bullying generally goes on over a long period of time. It’s a form of constant abuse that makes its victims miserable. It’s not just a “kids will be kids” kind of thing. Children who are being bullied need their parents and their school systems to protect them.
Signs that your child is a victim of a bully
It’s common for children to keep it to themselves when a bully is making life miserable. They often don’t think that parents are going to be able to help, and they worry that telling adults will only make the bully angry and make things worse. Kids who are being bullied may exhibit the following behavior:
- Sudden lack of interest in school
- Sudden poor grades
- Signs of physical abuse
- Advice for parents: take action
Ideally, you want to protect your child from ever being bullied at all. If you teach your child early to recognize bullying behavior and stay away from it, you might be able to increase the child’s chances of becoming a bully’s victim. Encouraging your child to speak up for him or herself and to say no when feeling pressured is also helpful.
But there are no guarantees. Sometimes kids are picked on just because they’re smaller than the bully. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what made the bully choose a particular child. It can just be bad luck.
A lot of well-meaning parents think the best way to handle things if their child is being bullied is to let the situation alone and it will eventually blow over. In fact, your child needs your help. As soon as you know or suspect your child is being bullied, take action.
- Inform school officials immediately.
- Record the dates and times of the bullying incidents and submit them to school officials. Being specific in this way can help clarify that the bullying is a serious situation and not just an innocent school prank.
- Demand that the school take action to stop the bullying behavior
Whatever happens, be sure your child knows you’re supporting him or her. Keep the lines of communication open, and don’t ever act as though your child has done anything wrong.
Sometimes, children who have been bullied begin to believe the things that a bully has said about them. And if social isolation has been part of the bullying, that can be quite traumatizing for a child. If your child seems to be having difficulty getting over the bullying episodes, even when the bullying is no longer going on, you may want to talk with your pediatrician about whether a mental health counselor would be helpful.
National PTA; National School Safety Center