Bullying has been a hot topic in the news recently as the case of Phoebe Prince was brought to light by the media. For those who have not heard about it, the Associated Press printed the story on May 9th. In this story, they reported that “Phoebe Prince was a recently arrived Irish immigrant, 15 and emotionally fragile, when high school bullying over two boys she dated apparently drove her to hang herself with a scarf in her Massachusetts home.” While her story is severe, it brings to light just how serious of a problem bullying has become. Bullying was once thought to be a normal part of growing up, but it has come to light that it can also have dire consequences. While there are a lot of states that have laws and schools that have rules protecting victims of bullying, this is simply not enough. Parents, teachers, and the local community must make the prevention of bullying a priority. Our commitment should start in the elementary school years and extending throughout our formalized education system. Getting involved to stop bullying starts with understanding bullying.
What is Bullying?
Education.com defines bullying as
- An intentional act. The child who bullies wants to harm the victim; it is no accident.
- Characterized by repeat occurrences. Bullying is not generally considered a random act, nor a single incident.
- A power differential. A fight between two kids of equal power is not bullying; bullying is a fight where the child who bullies has some advantage or power over the child who is victimized.
Bullying may take place face-to-face, on the playground, or in the classroom. Bullying behaviors may be physical – kicking, hitting, spitting. The behaviors may be verbal – teasing, name calling, and threats or it can also happen online – this is considered cyber-bullying.
Bullying has no boundaries, it happens regardless of socioeconomic conditions, gender, race, religion. With that being said, it tends to happen differently between the genders. Boys, as with most of their interactions, tend to be more physical with their bullying. Girls on the other hand, tend to be more indirect with their bullying, for example trying to ruin other girl’s reputations.
Even though boys and girls bully differently, the signs that your child may be the victim of bullying are the same. Bullying is something that kids often feel ashamed about so don’t share it directly with parents. As with other problems, parents know their kids and have to trust themselves if they feel something is not as it should be. Some of the signs parents can look for are anxiety and concerns about safety, general sadness, low self esteem, aggression, loss of items with no explanation, physical complaints (headaches, stomach aches etc.), avoiding recess or being at school during free times, and frequent unexplained injuries to self or property.
- Parents need to listen to their child, be supportive, believe your child, and try not to be judgmental about the situation.
- Make school officials aware of the situation so they can ensure your child’s safety at school. They can also access information on bullying and add it to the the curriculum to help all students feel empowered to address bullying.
- Parents need to avoid aggressive responses and try to maintain a calm emotionally appropriate response. This modeling behavior will help your child to learn how to behave in these difficult situations.
- Talk with your child and help them to become aware that their behavior is hurting other kids. Talk to them about what they do with their friends, the games they play, how they treat one another. Work with your child to give them alternative ways to show their leadership and strength.
- Examine the behaviors in the home, are they aggressive? If so, work on new ways to communicate more effectively. Your child will model the behaviors s/he sees at home. Create rules at home to support this and create a zero-tolerance for bullying policy in the home.
- Talk with the school to get a better understanding of the behaviors they are seeing and how it is being addressed. Open communication is the best way to have an understanding so that home and school can send a consistent message.