Thoughts – In the Fight Against Bullying, a Glimmer of Hope
It’s good to see that Maryland has seen an overall decline in school bullying amongst younger children. It’s a little frustrating that this study was not set up in a way that could help them discern why that is, though. Hopefully that trend continues.
I always find it interesting that most of the work on this topic seems to stem around one of two things. What to do if you/your child is bullied. Or what to do if you/your child witness bullying. I think there is a third far more important topic to tackle if bullying is something we actually want to see come to an end. What to do if your child is the bully.
I find it interesting that this article specifically calls out not to get in touch with the parents of the bully. Sure, sometimes that may not go well, but I think most people don’t want their kid to be a bully.
What do you do if you discover that your child might be the bully?
Well, for starters, you listen to them. We are all very quick to catch on and help give our children pointers for dealing with bullying. Your kid being the bully tends to go under the radar unless the school brings it up. Children are unlikely to come home bragging about how they made fun of Susy until she hid in the bathroom and cried. So, listen and watch for other things that may be indicators. Do they complain about someone they think is annoying, or ugly, frequently? Are they coming home with items that they didn’t go to school with often enough that it’s unlikely that they are just gifts? When their friends come over are they spending a lot of time laughing and making jokes about one specific person?
Education Over Punishment
I think the best way to deal with and/or prevent your child from being a bully has a lot more to do with education than punishment. Give them some tasks related to making the person they are bullying more human in their mind. Then, follow up with punishment if those aren’t carried out. In general, the first step towards being able to be really crummy to another person is finding a way to de-humanize them in your mind. A child being a bully will typically do this by focusing on a specific attribute about a person. Then, they make that attribute all the person is instead of seeing a whole person.
You combat this by making them see a person again instead of just an annoying feature. Tell your child to find out the names of their victim’s parents and what they do. What is their favorite TV show? What kind of games do they like to play? Specific information they must actually engage in a conversation to get. Then, follow up with them to make sure they did it. Take away things they enjoy doing until they can come home with evidence of having a real conversation with the person.
Communication on all Fronts
If possible, give the parents of the victim a call and let them know that you are aware of the situation and have made it clear that the behavior is unacceptable to your child. It will both give the other parents some peace of mind to know you are not ignoring and give them the opportunity to talk to their child into hopefully being more receptive towards being approached in conversation. No promises there, not everyone can approach this subject reasonably, but you should try. It’s important to make sure the issue is worked out primarily between the children though. Guide them from home, but don’t follow them to school and stand over their shoulder to make sure it’s done.
The lesson has a much bigger impact if the actual point of conflict can be worked out between the kids. “We worked out our differences” is a much stronger and more empowering lesson for both children involved than “Our parents made us stop interacting”
Obviously, this won’t work in all cases. Nothing ever does. The keys are that bullying stems from creating an “inhuman” picture of a person and the best way to stop that is to find ways to turn that back into a “human” picture again. You know your child and what works with them better than I do. I’m just giving some ideas for how to start that path.
Good luck out there!
“It’s very exciting,” Dr. Bradshaw said, “but we need to be very clear that although there is some good news, we’re still seeing 20 percent of kids not feeling safe at school. We haven’t solved this problem, but it gives us hope that policies and practices may have improved things.”