Bullying has always been an issue with school-age children, but it’s gotten a lot worse in the last few decades due to the internet and social media. About 14.5% of teenagers in Singapore report being bullied. Singapore currently has the world’s third-highest rate of bullying, right next to Lativa and New Zealand.
Social media now gives bullies more ways to pick on those that are unable to defend themselves, exacerbating the problem. For example, a few decades ago, a bully might embarrass their victim in class while everyone laughs at them. That’s bad enough for the victim, but the situation ends there. The victim gets to put it behind them and move on.
With smartphones and social media, these moments can now be captured and shared with people worldwide. The effects on victims can be catastrophic.
Bullying exists in many forms:
- It can be verbal, like threats or name-calling.
- It can be physical, like pushing, pinching, or hitting.
- It can be emotional abuse, like excluding someone from a group or spreading rumors about them.
Thanks to social media and the internet, bullying is no longer restricted to the classroom or schoolyard. Victims no longer get to enjoy a sense of relief after school as the bullying doesn’t stop, especially in the teenage years when most kids have smartphones.
Everything Parents Should Know About School Bullies
The first step you can make as a parent to protect your child from being bullied is learning to recognize the signs. Some of the common signs a child is being bullied include:
- Not wanting to go to school or wherever they’re getting bullied. It’s a natural defense mechanism to want to avoid things that are harming or stressing you.
- Complaints about physical symptoms like stomachaches. This is caused by the anxiety and fears the child regularly feels as they brace themselves to be at the mercy of their tormentors.
These symptoms shouldn’t automatically be viewed as proof of bullying, but they still warrant you probing deeper into what might be the problem. Ask questions and talk to your children about their social interactions. Talk to your kids about which friends they’re getting along with and which ones they aren’t. Establishing good communication with your children should start before they face any bullies.
Keep your inquiries general for the most part, but dig for more details if your child tells you about a problem or you suspect they have one. Learn to listen to what your children tell you about their relationships and keep your emotions under control.
Parents often get angry or frustrated when they find out their child is being mistreated, but that isn’t helpful. What children need is for you to support, reassure, and listen to them. They should see you as a strong, stable force that can help them navigate any problem.
Dealing With Bullies
If you find out bullies are targeting your child, you should first help them understand that the bullying isn’t their fault. Explain to the child that bullying is always about the person engaging in the behavior, not the victim.
You can then help your child devise plans to address the bullying and prevent it from escalating. Some of the things you can do to help your child include:
Teach Them Ways To Respond To The Bully
Talk to your child about ways to deter their peers from bullying behavior. Simple things like telling the bully to “back off” or “leave them alone” can deter bullies from targeting them. The key is that the comeback shouldn’t be something that puts the bully down since that can escalate things. The goal of the comeback is to let the bully know they want to be left alone.
You can role-play with your child when working on comebacks since it’s an effective way to empower them and build confidence. You can play the bully while your child practices different responses until they feel confident enough to stand their ground against a bully in a firm tone.
Teach Your Child About Positive Body Language
Positive body language can also help children when facing bullying behavior. Talk to your children about positive body language so they appear confident interacting with their peers. For example, you can teach a child to practice looking at their friends’ eyes and to do the same with bullies who are bothering them. You can also practice making brave faces with your child and encourage them to put on a brave face when they’re being bothered.
Maintain An Open Line Of Communication
Talk to your child daily about things that are going on with their friends and school. Always use a calm, nurturing tone, so they are not scared to tell you if something is wrong. Ensure they understand that their well-being and safety are your top priority, and they should always talk to an adult about any issues, even small ones.
Sign Your Child Up For Activities That Build Confidence
The better children feel about themselves, the lower the odds that bullying will seriously impact their self-esteem. Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities, social events, and hobbies that help to increase their confidence.
Group activities like team sports at schools or martial arts classes are effective ways to build a child’s self-esteem. Martial arts can be particularly useful, since the child also learns other useful skills that can help with bullies, like improved problem-solving skills under stressful situations like when they’re getting bullied.
You should also talk to your children about the unique qualities that you love about them and use positive reinforcement to promote behaviors you want to see more. Many parents often focus more on negative situations, but children respond better when their good behaviors are reinforced instead of being punished for bad ones. Reinforcing positive behaviors helps build a child’s self-esteem and confidence. The more confident a child is, the less likely they will be targeted by bullies since bullies typically target the weakest kid in the group.
Praise Your Child’s Progress
Give your child lots of encouragement whenever they successfully defuse a harasser. Let them know how proud you are. You should also point out examples of other kids setting healthy boundaries when confronted by bullies. If you see another child standing up to a bully, point it out so your child can imitate their approach. Let your child know that bullies will eventually move on and look for other victims when they stand their ground and let the bully know they can’t be bothered.
Teach Your Child How To Interact With Peers
One of the first steps parents can take to protect their child from bullies is explaining to them how bullies have a need for power and control over others, plus a desire to hurt people. Bullies typically lack sensitivity, empathy, and self-control. Some of the useful strategies your child can use to deal with bullies include:
- Projecting Confidence: Help to build your child’s confidence, so they’re less likely to be targeted by bullies. Teach them to set boundaries with bullies and firmly tell them to leave them alone. It can be something as simple as telling a bully they don’t like a degrading nickname the bully keeps calling them.
- Understanding Their Self-Worth: Children with healthy self-esteem are less likely to be affected by negative things anyone says about them. Teach your child to remind themselves about all their positive attributes when confronted by negativity.
- Disarming Bullies With Humor: A child learning to laugh at a bully’s attempts to get under their skin can effectively deter bullies. Bullies don’t get the satisfaction they’re looking for when their victims are unbothered by their actions.
- Talking To Adults: Teach your child to walk away from situations and talk to adults whenever they feel unsafe during their interactions.
- Encourage Them To Be More Social: Teaching a child to widen their circle of friends and have positive interactions with their peers can help protect them against bullies. Bullies often pick on kids who are isolated by their peers since they’re less likely to have others come to their aid while being harassed. Teach your child to be kind to other children so they can widen their social networks and tell them to step up if they see other children being bullied.
Your Role As A Parent When Addressing Bullies
It is ultimately up to parents to help their young children deal with bullies. Teach them how to make intelligent choices and take action whenever they see one of their peers being bullied or hurt. Parents should empower children by teaching them how to stand up to bullies, but there are times you should be ready to intervene.
Some of the things parents can do to help their children when they’re being bullied include:
1) Report Severe, Repeated Cases Of Bullying
If your child is reluctant to report their bully at school, it’s up to you to take them to talk to a school administrator, guidance counselor, or teacher. Read up on your child’s school policy on bullying and document as many instances of bullying as possible. You might need to pressure school staff and follow up on the situation to see what actions are being taken in response to the bullying.
Take advantage of any help you can get from outside school, like a police officer or family therapist, to help your child process the bullying.
2) Teach Your Child To Stand Up For Others
Children who take positive steps to intervene when other children are being bullied are less likely to be targeted by bullies. It comes down to how bullies look for weak targets to torment. A child who stands up for others sends signals to bullies that they won’t have a problem standing up for themselves when necessary.
Children standing up for their peers against a bully is more powerful than anything adults can do to address bullying. The bully will likely stop their behavior when it no longer makes them cool, and they know others will stand up to them.
3) Work With Your Child’s School
Reach out to your child’s school often and report any severe bullying incidents. Expecting school staff to be aware of everything that’s going on with your child isn’t realistic, so bring up serious bullying incidents you think warrant intervention from authority figures at school.
Many schools have anti-bullying programs, but parents must still do their part and bring things to their attention.
4) Talk To The Offender’s Parents
Getting hold of a bully’s parents can be an effective way to curb the behavior. Reach out to the other child’s parents if the bullying is persistent and involves acts of intimidation. There’s no guarantee that the other parents will be receptive to cooperatively working with you to address the issue, but you should at least try.
Give them a call or text them in a non-confrontational way, so it’s clear your only goal is to work with them to resolve the issue. Be direct when contacting a bully’s parents and get right to the issue.
For example, you could say, “I’m calling because my kid comes up upset from school every day, complaining about your child calling them names and excluding them from activities. I’m not sure if you’re aware of any of this, but I’d like us to work together to help them get along better. Do you have any ideas?”
5) Teach Children Coping Skills
Another effective way parents can help their children to deal with bullies is by teaching them coping skills. Start by reminding them that bullying is never their fault and that the bully is the only one who has a problem. Parents should never make their children feel like bullying is normal peer-to-peer stuff or make them feel like they’re overreacting. If a child is upset about being name-called or teased, and the person doing it won’t stop, they are being bullied.
Keep open communication lines with the child and help them to communicate their feelings about the situation.
Children can cope with bullies by using humor to let the bully know they’re unbothered by their attempts to ridicule or intimidate them, looking their bully in the eye so they appear more confident, and never putting up with physical abuse.
Give Martial Arts A Try!
Martial arts is perhaps one of the best gift for your kids, apart from being able to bully-proofing themselves, they’ll also reap many other benefits that’ll give them an edge in school and even in life! If you’re looking for the most efficient way to keep your children safe from the bullying epidemic while also helping them grow and develop, why not give martial arts a try?
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