Wherever there are children, there are bullies. Bullies use fear to get away with unacceptable behavior. Their victims (the “bullied”) fear continued abuse if they tell. Bystanders fear becoming the next victim. The “bullied” suffer in silence while repeatedly getting harassed. Bystanders stay silent to avoid the unwanted attention. It’s a vicious, unending cycle.
Studies on bullying show that younger and weaker youth are victimized most often. In addition, the bully-victim relationship tends to continue unless there is some sort of intervention from parents or other adults.
Bullies come in all sizes, ages and genders. The tactics they use vary widely. Some get physical. Others play on emotion. Boys often use force (punching, kicking, tripping, etc.). Girls often rely on subtle actions (gossip, manipulation, exclusion, etc.)
Bullies like to pick on those who can’t or won’t stick up for themselves. Unfortunately, many victims lack the social skills and social networks that can keep them from being victimized. As a parent, you can help bully-proof your child by doing the following:
Teach Your Teen To Be A Friend
There is strength in numbers. Encourage your teen to develop friendships. If he or she has a special interest – sports or music – find programs that your teen can participate in.
Teach Your Teen Self-Respect
Kids who can hold their heads high and walk with confidence are less likely to be singled out. Some victims actually believe they deserve to be attacked because of a self-perceived flaw in how they look, the way they talk, how they dress or any number of reasons.
It can be very hard for a teen to take a stand and defend someone who is being bullied, especially if the victim is considered to be a “loser” or “weird.” Has your teen ever described a bullying situation, and have you ever asked what he or she did to stop it?
Some bystanders are too afraid to get involved. They don’t want to be a target. Some experience feelings of guilt because they did nothing.
As a parent, it’s important to teach and reinforce virtues such as caring and respect. Here are things you can do to instill these values in your teen:
Model respect and kindness at home. If you and your spouse are considerate and compassionate to each other and your family, your child will likely treat others the same way.
Show respect for those in authority, including teachers and police officers.
Bullying is a difficult problem that only gets worse when it’s ignored. Victims and bystanders can’t be expected to resolve the issue all on their own. Talk to school administrators to find out how they are dealing with the problem. Pretending the problem doesn’t exist won’t make it go away.