With the growing concern over violence in our society and our schools, has come a renewed interest in an age-old problem….bullying. Bullying can be loosely defined as any verbal or physical behavior intended to dominate, intimidate or humiliate another individual. This behavior is often used by troubled and insecure individuals as a way to vent their feelings of aggression onto a more vulnerable target. It has been suggested that children who consistently bully in school and social situations without consequences grow into adults who bully in their workplaces and families. It has also been observed that children who are the targets of bullying may suffer from poor self-esteem, physical problems, avoidance and, in some cases may ultimately act out violently toward themselves or others. Signs to watch out for:
- Sudden changes in mood or behavior.
- A child who is happy on the weekends and quiet or distressed during the week.
- Unexplainable physical complaints.
- Avoidance of school or other social situations.
- Self-degrading statements (i.e., “I’m too fat”, “My ears are too big”, etc.).
What to do if you notice any of the above:
- Ask questions. General questions about what happens during your child’s day and specific questions about the people he or she interacts with.
- Give your child permission to tell someone if anyone makes him/her feel uncomfortable by what they do or say.
- Stay in contact with other adults who may observe your child’s interactions (i.e., teachers, parents, coaches, etc.). Ask them to be on the lookout for signs of bullying.
- Once the issue has been raised by the child, seek to determine the extent of the bullying (isolate vs. chronic, teasing vs. physical threats, etc.).
- Help the child understand the nature of bullying as the bully’s need to intimidate and not a widely-held truth about the child.
- When age-appropriate, help the child develop strategies for coping without the need for you to intervene (use confident nonverbal communication, assertive responses, walking away, etc.).
- Report any concerns of physical aggression to the proper authorities.
- If necessary, consider counseling for your child.