By Rebecca Barcy, PhD NCSP
As I meet with parents and children, a common concern that is often raised is how to handle bullying behaviors in the neighborhood or school. Both parents and children relate worries about how to respond when they or someone they care about are the targets of aggressive behavior or intimidating threats.
Bullying behaviors range from physical violence to more subtle, yet equally destructive, patterns of verbal or social cruelty. You and your child are not alone in facing this problem. It is estimated that 15 – 30 percent of young people are affected.
While boys are more often involved in physical bullying, girls may be victims of more subtle intimidation, such as rumors or social exclusion. Bullying causes distress to millions of children and adolescents, and many adults still remember an earlier childhood bullying experience as traumatic.
So what can caring adults do to address this problem? Overcoming this behavior requires parents and school personnel to work together to identify and manage bullying in order to create an environment in which students feel safe. Children need to believe that adults will protect them if they are to feel confident in handling bullying. Adults who treat others with care and respect are positive, powerful models. Letting young people know that you will listen without judging them is important in helping them confide in you.
What Parents Can Do
Help your child build self-confidence and positive friendships:
- Find a variety of activities that your child enjoys and does well
- Encourage children to support their peers and downplay competition
- Give positive recognition for appropriate social behaviors
Stay aware of what is going on in your child’s life:
- Bullied children give signals that something is wrong. Note withdrawal, reluctance to go to school, physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or problems sleeping
- Talk to your child about any concerns
- Reassure your child that you will work with the school to stop the behavior
Teach children strategies to counter bullying, such as:
- Walking away from the bully
- Delivering a simple response such as “So?” or “Whatever” with a shoulder shrug
- Using humor
- Getting help from an adult
- Avoid provoking the bully – some bullying is “payback”
Check out programs to counteract bullying at your child’s school and get involved. Be part of the solution.
Rebecca Barcy, PhD, NCSP, is a fully licensed psychologist and a nationally certified school psychologist who works at the Pine Rest Psychological Consultation Center which provides psychological and neuropsychological assessments, evaluations, and recommendations.
*Some information provided from the National Association of School Psychologists, Bethesda, MD, http://www.nasponline.org.