Why don’t children speak up when they experience intimidation and bullying?
Children usually do not speak about being bullied. This can be attributed to several reasons such as:
- They don’t know this practice is called bullying, especially when it occurs in a cunning and subtle way.
- They feel embarrassed that this is happening to them or that they are not able to handle it.
- They are afraid of the bullying person; most bullies use threats to protect themselves.
- They hope that bullying will enable them to become accepted and to ‘fit in’ within a group of bullies.
- They are worried that no one would believe them or understand them.
- They are worried about being labelled a ‘snitch’.
- They are worried about the reaction or response of their parents (excessive worry, reprimand, rebuke, etc).
- In terms of Cyberbullying, they are afraid that parents would restrict their access to and use of internet.
How do I encourage my child to speak up if I feel like s/he avoids telling me about what’s happening?
You can try to seize or create an opportunity to talk to your child. For instance, you may opt to watch a movie or tv-show with your child about bullying steer the conversation and ask him/her about what s/he thinks the hero/main character feels about this bullying experience, as well as the action that needs to be taken in his/her opinion. Other follow-up questions include: ‘Have you ever seen something like this in reality?’ or ‘Have you or any of your friends ever experienced a similar situation?’.
What are the warning signs of bullying?
Sometimes it can be difficult for us to observe any warning signs concerning the practice of bullying. However, it should be alarming if you find some warning signs such as if the child:
- Suffers from physical marks, with no convincing reason (including cuts and bruises), particularly if they are of a frequent nature.
- Experiences frequent loss of belongings, with no good justification, or loss/disappearance of items from the house.
- No longer wants to go to school or to spend time at social gatherings.
- Shares his/her feelings of loneliness.
- Demonstrates an evident change in behavior (excessive anxiety or clinging to parents) or in everyday routines (such as refusing to eat or to walk down a certain road, etc.).
- Develops unwarranted negative or aggressive behaviors.
- Complains about physical pains with no medical reason (such as headache, sleeping problems, etc.).
- Begins to bully others (for example, siblings).
- Suffers from sudden decline in academic performance, along with having difficulty in concentrating.
- Shows dissatisfaction about himself/herself that wasn’t of a great importance before (including his/her own look or appearance or the new place s/he goes to).
What do I need to do if I learn that my child is being bullied at school?
There are certain interventions that you can carry out with your child as well as with his/her school:
With the Child
- Listen. Just listen, with no haste and without jumping to conclusions or passing judgements. thank the child and acknowledge that it is both right and brave for him/her to tell you about his/her experience.
- Show empathy and respond to his/her feelings, no matter how difficult it is, and even if the child gets into details that sound scary for you. This experience is tough and hard for the child. If the child feels that you are anxious, perhaps s/he would feel discouraged to share the details with you.
- Avoid blaming the child or making statements like, ‘Why didn’t you tell me earlier?’ or “I told you to stand up for yourself!’, or ‘You must have done something wrong to make them outraged against you!’ This will discourage the child from talking to you again.
- Try to collect as much information as possible about all the parties involved in the problem by ask questions (make sure you ask and listen, more than you talk and judge).
With the School
- Report this incident to the teacher and to explain how you are handling it.
- Stay calm and to avoid overreacting so that you do not risk compromising your relationship with the school and the school staff. However, the school staff need to take this issue seriously. They need to appreciate and recognize that you care so much about this issue and that you will continue to closely monitor it.
- Appreciate and acknowledge any progress made by the school towards achieving the commitments and actions you have agreed on.
- If you believe that your child is at risk at any time, contact the school for immediate intervention.
Reassure the child that you stand by his/her side and that you will encounter this problem together. engage the child in addressing this problem, by undertaking the following:
- Ask the child about what s/he wants to do about this situation?
- Explain to the child how s/he needs to safeguard himself/herself and how to stay safe (see the question: “How can I teach my child how to respond to bullying?”). You may need to engage the child in a role-playing situation.
- Help the child identify the individuals that s/he can report such incidents to. Make sure you tell the child that this is the right thing to do. Explain to the child how s/he should report the incident. For example, the child needs to report:
- Follow up on the child on a regular basis as well as to monitor the progress made towards your support plan.
- If you think the problem has undermined or impacted the child psychologically or emotionally, seek help from a healthcare professional specialized in children psychiatry.
- What happened exactly
- The individuals involved in bullying or abusing him/her
- What s/he did
How can I teach my child how to respond to bullying?
Children aged between 3 and 4 years need to learn what they need to do in response to someone being unkind to them. Abusive behaviors sometimes take subtle and invisible forms and in a way, that makes bullying seem normal. Before your children get bullied:
Make sure that they know what bullying is, as well as different types of bullying. Help them distinguish between bullying and regular forms of inconvenience.
- Tell them that if someone says, ‘do not tell anyone else about this!’, then they need to understand that this person must be doing something wrong.
- Teach them that it is an act of bravery to tell the truth and report incidents of bullying and harassment.
- Advise them to avoid groups that are known for their involvement with the practice of bullying, even when they are popular or fun.
- Tell them that if you feel concerned about getting bullied or abused, they should try to avoid being all alone or in a place without adult supervision. They need to stay close to your friends.
If one of your children faced bullying, share the following tips with him/her:
- Do not let the bullying person to exercise power or control over you. Try to remain calm. Look them in the eye and be firm and assertive by saying, ‘stop doing this’, or walk away without showing any reaction or response (smiling may provoke the bullying person and may make them more abusive).
- If the abuse is verbal, do not repay insult for insult. Rather, you can make statements like, ‘thank you for letting me know!’, or ‘I know’. Engaging in arguments with them, would grant them power over you. This would likely to evolve more problems.
- If the abuse is physical, stay safe. Stop them by standing up for yourself. If you cannot do this, walk away immediately and seek the help of an adult.
- Talk to someone you trust. Tell your parents or teacher, or sibling, or friend. Seek help.
Why shouldn’t I teach my child to hit back?
There is a big difference between defending oneself and hitting back. teach your child to defend themselves. Once the harm has been halted, they need to seek help or report the incident to an adult person.
How can I protect my child from bullying?
- Educate yourself about bulling; read and learn about its reasons, warning signs and effective ways of responding to it.
- Treat your children with respect. teach them that they deserve respect. If a child learns that it is acceptable for himself/herself be treated in a derogatory manner, harmed, ridiculed or bullied at home, s/he is more likely to accept this treatment from the others (or to bully others).
- Always acknowledge and appreciate your own child. Remind him/her of his/her strengths and potentials. Avoid criticizing or underestimating potentials. Sports also enable your child to develop his/her self-esteem.
- Give your child adequate attention. Your child needs attention and affirmation. If children don’t get this in legitimate ways, they would pursue this unfavorably.
- Create a safe environment for your children, where they can talk about any issue unworried about being blamed or mocked, and where they do not feel that no one understands them.
- Educate your child about different types of bullying, including Cyberbullying. help him/her stay safe online by establishing age-appropriate rules and firewalls.
- Teach your child to interact with others and stand up for others. Children are more likely to stand up for others than to stand up for themselves. When they develop this skill, they will learn to become more confident to stand up for themselves, as needed.
My child is physically weak and cannot stand up for himself/herself. What do I need to do?
Teach and educate your child everything about bullying and how to stand up for himself/herself.
Teach your child martial arts or any other sports that help him/her develop confidence and predictability.
Remind them that they can seek help if needed.
How do I help my child re-build their self-esteem after being bullied?
- Encourage your child to spend time with his/her friends who can impact him/her positively.
- Engage your child in games, sports and any other activities that can build strengths and help make friendships.
- Listen actively to what your child says. ask him/her about the positive things that happened during the day and listen attentively to what s/he says.
- Show trust in the child and his/her ability to address different situations. At the same time, confirm that you will make every effort to protect him/her against any practices of bullying in the future.
How do I help my child integrate with his/her peers?
- Teach and educate your child about bullying.
- Teach your child to show empathy and compassion towards the feelings of others.
- Remind your child to treat others the way he/she wants to be treated.
- Teach your child that each individual is different and that such individual differences make us unique.
- Stress on the fact that nobody has the right to make fun of others or to spread rumors about them. teach him/her that s/he should not let others intimidate or manipulate him/her.
- Teach your child to stand up for himself/herself as well as for others.