Why is bullying such an important issue? And how can parents and teachers help prevent children from being bullied in School?
Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional and involves an imbalance of power or strength. It is a repeated behavior and can be physical, verbal, or emotional. Research shows that approximately half the children who have been bullied never tell their parents or teachers about it, and consequently do not get the help they need. It’s important to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off as something that kids have to “tough out.” Being bullied can negatively affect the child’s performance in school, their relations with peers and their sense of self worth for years in the future.
Why don’t children tell when they are being bullied?
Children are often too ashamed to tell anyone. Sometimes they feel that no one can help, not even their parents. They may feel it’s their own fault and that if they looked or acted differently it wouldn’t be happening. Sometimes they’re frightened that if the bully finds out that they told, it will get worse. Others are worried that their parents won’t believe them or do anything about it. Or they worry that their parents will urge them to fight back, which may be frightening.
What can parents do to encourage their children to tell them?
Praise your child for being brave enough to talk about it. Let your child know that telling someone is not lashon hara, and does not fall under the category of “tattling.” Remind your child that he or she isn’t alone — a lot of people get bullied at some point. Emphasize that it’s the bully who is behaving badly — not your child. Reassure your child that you will figure out what to do about it together.
How can parents teach derech eretz habits early in life?
Children learn how to behave from watching how adults behave in different situations. When a parent speaks to another person in a hurtful or abusive way, they are teaching their child that bullying is not only OK, but even an effective method for getting what they want. Children need to be told what not to do – hitting, pushing, teasing, or generally being mean to others. More importantly, they need to be told what to do – kindness, empathy, fair play, and turn-taking are critical skills for good peer relations. Talk about how it feels when someone was mean to them, so they will remember that and not hurt others in the same way. There are many opportunities to have these discussions in the home related to how siblings interact with each other. Your children need to hear from you explicitly that it’s not acceptable for them to bully, to be bullied, or to stand by and watch others being bullied.
What are signs that a child is being bullied?
If you suspect that your child might be bullied, talk with your child’s teacher or find ways to observe his or her peer interactions to determine whether or not your suspicions might be correct. Signs include: ripped clothing, bruises, hesitation about going to school, withdrawal, drop in grades, loss of interest in activities he or she previously enjoyed, need for extra money or supplies, decreased appetite, nightmares, crying, or general depression and anxiety. If your child is reluctant to open up, find opportunities to bring up the issue in a more roundabout way. For instance, you might see a situation and use it as a conversation starter, asking “What do you think of this?” or “What do you think that person should have done?” This might lead to questions like: “Have you ever seen this happen?” or “Have you ever experienced this?” You might want to talk about any experiences you or another family member had at that age.
Isn’t bullying a normal part of growing up?
Some adults hesitate to act when they observe or hear about bullying because they think of bullying as a typical phase of childhood that must be endured. It is important for everyone to understand that all forms of bullying – physical, verbal, social (gossip, rumors, exclusion from the group), and cyber bullying are NOT a normal part of childhood. These behaviors are emotionally destructive for everyone involved.
How can schools help stop bullying?
Bullying situations usually involve more than the bully and the victim. They also involve bystanders—those who watch bullying happen or hear about it. Whether your children have been the victims of bullies, have exhibited bullying behavior or are bystanders, you should know what their school is doing to address bullying. Ongoing educational programs that help create a healthy social environment and teach children that bullying behavior is unacceptable, and “not cool” have been shown to be effective in reducing bullying. Parents and teachers should provide examples of how helpful bystanders can make a difference. Children can often effectively diffuse a bullying situation by yelling “Stop! You’re bullying!” Most bullies stop within 10 seconds when someone tells him or her to stop. Work with your child and the school to help implement an anti-bullying program.
How can school staff be more aware of potential abusive situations?
They can familiarize themselves with the children who typically affiliate together, the children who are leaders and socially influential and those who are socially marginalized. Bullying most often occurs when children are not being monitored and can take place outside the classroom in areas such as the bathroom, playground, crowded hallways, and school buses. In today’s world, bullying also occurs via cell phones and computers because of the privacy those mediums offer, and can be much more destructive with their ability to reach a large audience in a short time. Remember, bystanders encourage bullying if they say nothing, but have the power to stop it, if they speak up.
משנה, פרקי אבות ב:י רבי אליעזר אומר יהי כבוד חברך חביב עליך כשלך
Rabbi Eliezer said, “Other people’s dignity should be as precious to you as your own.”
Preventing and stopping bullying involves a commitment to creating a safe environment where children can thrive, socially and academically, without being afraid.
Contact Kav L’Noar for more information about how our counseling and mentoring programs promote resilience, build confidence and can help children deal with and prevent Bullying.
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