How to stop bullying
Bullying is one of the largest and most prevalent problems that kids face worldwide. Here are some bullying statistics. One out of every 5 students in school in the US has been a victim of school bullying at some time or the other. 24.24 million kids attended school for the year 2014-15 in grades 6 through 12 (ages 12 through 18 years). Out of this over 5 million kids reported being bullied in some way or the other. That’s a whopping 20.8 %. Sure, there has been a marginal improvement from 28 % in 2005, 32 % in 2007, 28% in 2009, 28% in 2011 and 22% in 2013. But when the odds are 1 in 5, you’ve gotta admit your kid is vulnerable !
So what is bullying ? “Bullying is the practice of making someone feel weak or insecure in order to make the bully look strong”. Parents and kids must realize that there are normally 3 participants necessary in a bullying experience : the bully, the bullied, and the audience … as bullying is all about the bully gaining / maintaining social standing through “oppression” of someone perceived as weaker / inferior, the audience is critical to the entire process. Bullying need not be just mean comments passed about someone (verbal abuse), but there could be physical abuse, and social / emotional bullying also. For the last many years, bullying has reached beyond the classroom and the schoolyard to the school bus, the sports field, and of course the dreaded newer version, cyber bullying.
Kids could be bullied because of how they look (height, weight, wearing specs, wearing articles specific to a faith, or even their overall appearance), how they behave, their sexuality / gender identity, religion, race or even popularity (or lack thereof).
Bullying affects students at all levels – elementary school, middle school and high school. And bullying doesn’t end with school. It is likely that someone who has been a bully at school, will continue to be a bully in college, at work and in his / her family life.
The effects of bullying are damaging and long lasting. Kids who have been frequently bullied, and have not managed to resolve the problem, can frequently grow up to be mal-adjusted in society. They continue to perceive themselves as lacking whatever it is they were bullied about. For instance, a kid bullied as a late developer, may be well developed and tall later in life, but would continue to see themselves as lesser developed physically. Someone bullied for being shy and mousy, may remain an introvert for all of his or her life. Victims of bullying could exhibit suicidal tendencies, resort to self-mutilation, develop anti-social behavior or even become bullies themselves whenever they get a chance !
It is important therefore that parents are able to recognize when their kids may be getting bullied. Like with most stressful situations, bullying results in an emotional / psychological / physical response in kids. Here are some of the frequent tells kids demonstrate:
- Missing school / not wanting to go to school
- Problems in concentrating
- Problems with learning anything new
- Becoming withdrawn and spending more time in their room
- Becoming emotionally erratic – weepy, quick to anger, feeling depressed
- Resorting to petty theft and /or vandalism
- Stopping doing some activity they loved earlier
All the 50 states in the nation have specific anti-bullying laws, targeted at preventing bullying in schools, however, there are those who believe that these may simply be feel-good legislations lacking funding to support directives to the schools.
So how does one stop bullying at one’s own level? While there are no absolute rules, here are a few tips that have worked in for bullying prevention :
- Ensure that your kids will always open up to you. Bottling up their emotions at being bullied has the potential for a disastrous outcome. An empathetic ear means that any victim of bullying does not have to suffer alone, and helps them realize that they aren’t alone, and that things will improve
- Stay alert about behavioral changes which may be the result of bullying. If you are unable to get your kid to open up to you, try other sources like friends, neighbors, teachers, etc to try and identify if your kid is getting bullied
- Do not ignore bullying incidents and hope they will go away, they rarely go away on their own
- As parents, do not step in to resolve every issue yourself. Do not call the bully’s parents and complain. The bully may just take it out on your kid the next time. Instead, empower your kids to tackle the situation themselves
- Build up your kid’s confidence through exposure to self esteem building activities like sports, theatre, music and other group / team activities. The more activities a child participates in, the greater the probability they will discover hidden talents that they have, which in turn builds their self esteem and self confidence. (Visit VersatileKids.com to check out a diverse range of kids activities available in your vicinity)
- Build up your kid’s exposure to diverse groups of people. Exposure at an early age breeds respect for “different” types people, and also helps them learn that people who may, say, look different, will not really be that different at heart
- Teach by example. Always give credit to diverse points of view and diversity in general. Make sure never to compare your children with each other or the neighbors so as to highlight shortcomings. Praise but do not compare. Kids exposed to bigotry / comparisons at home are likely to copy the same behavior in public and / or carry the weight of their shortcomings
- Teach your kids to turn a deaf ear to verbal bullying and to walk away. Be cool and calm. They neither need to respond to ever verbal taunt, nor should they give the bully the satisfaction of making them upset / seeing them cry. In the words of Kenny Rogers “If you’re gonna play the game boy, you gotta learn to play it right. You’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run.” A bully may just stop when they realize they aren’t getting the response they craved
- Educate kids never to be a willing or unwilling audience to a bullying episode. Kids need to realize that as the audience, they are themselves participating in the bullying, and are as guilty as the bully. Never like / share hurtful comments through social media or spread rumours. If there is no audience, most bullies lose their motivation. In fact, bullying may become worse when egged on by bystanders or in order to impress them. Most bystanders are caught in the trap of trying to appear “cool”. Teach your kids that bullying / allowing someone to bully others can never be “cool”
- When you see someone else getting bullied, interrupt the bully immediately. Tell them to stop. Alert the authorities.
- Keep teachers and school staff informed about bullying episodes. Request everyone to allow your kid to handle the situation themselves so long as they can, but school staff must remain alert for any violence or a situation your kid is unable to tackle
To all parents out there : Facts about bullying indicate that more 6th grade students are bullied than in the other grades, so be especially careful for your kid when they reach that age …