How to Deal with School Bullying
Bullying in our schools continues to be a problem around the country. Schools and parents are left with trying to figure out how to deal with this issue. Why does bullying happen? How you can help your child? What can we do to prevent bullying in schools?
As a parent that has been on both sides of this issue. It’s a tough one. I believe bullying happens for several reasons.
- The child who is the bully is really hurting. They have issues with self-esteem, feeling neglected or unloved. These issues create frustration, anxiety, and a poor perspective of someone or something.
- Bullies need to create a sense of order threw force, fear, & power to help themselves feel better. Ensure that those under them pay attention to them.
- There can also be mimicked behaviors from parents, siblings, and/or peers.
- Lastly, there are often emotionally, social, and behavioral delays due to the underlying causes. A bully may not have yet developed an understanding of what love it, what it means to respect others feelings, have the foresight to understand the consequences of their actions, as well as a host of others.
I often try to remember this quote, “9 times out of 10 the story behind the behavior won’t make you angry…it will break your heart.”
What we see on the surface of a bully is only the tip of the iceberg of all the hidden emotions on the inside. I am positive if you dig deeper, you’ll find the real reason behind why a child bullies.
What can you do to help your child if they are the one being bullied?
- The first line of defense is to speak to the school and parents of the child.
- If that does not resolve the issue, ask the school for accommodations for your child. Sitting in a different seat, moved to a different classroom, being placed in another group, a different bus, etc.
- Next, a bully only has power if you give it them. Remind your child that they can walk away from the situation or if needed how to advocate for themselves.
- Unfortunately, if you feel that safety of your child is at risk, more extreme measures may be necessary, such as insuring minimal contact with the individual, different way to and from school with an adult, or even removal of the child from the school.
Luckily most schools have a zero tolerance policy for bullying at school and will try to resolve the issue. The bigger problem lies when bullying occurs outside of the school and as children age the risk of violent behaviors increase with the bullying.
Where does that leave us? And what else can we do to help prevent bullying?
- Education is always a good place to start. Parents, school staff, and other adults in the community can help kids prevent bullying by talking about it, building a safe school environment, and creating a community-wide bullying prevention strategy.
- Secondly, when an incident occurs, swift action should be taken as a way to send a message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
- Anti-bullying laws on the books in every state.
- Some counties are getting creative.
- Some schools are trying to incorporate mediation into the daily curriculum. This move is to combat the high level of suspensions that often come from bullying physical encounters with other students. By removing the suspension and sending them to meditation, it removes the “street credit” students were gaining by being suspended. The results for schools have been amazing. It has lead to significant drop in fighting leading to these types of suspensions. Programs along side meditation were to have drug & alcohol counselors on hand, as well as harm-reduction groups.
- Another example is a school in Minneapolis is a using boxing to let their kids work out their issues in a constructive way. First they may use the punching bag, jump rope, do push up or sit ups. This often helps open the communication lines the work out issues and head off other fights.
- My last example is a recent article circulating on Facebook about how in Wisconsin Rapids parents are being considered in a new ordinance that would hold them accountable for their children’s behaviors. If the new ordinance passes it states, "bullying, harassment, and retaliation would become a fineable offense for anyone younger than 18 years old." Meaning, parents would end up having to pick up the tab on a $50 fine for their kid's first offense along with additional costs that would push the total past $300.
I am mixed on this one, as I do believe that parents play a vital role in the prevention of their child being a bully. However, with working with many of the types of families I work with and being on the other side of that coin (where my child was the bully) I can tell you that prevention doesn’t always work in the short term, as there are many learning, social, emotional developmental delays of special needs kids.
So in the case above, we are penalizing parents who are doing their due diligence and it hasn’t yet been effective. Having them fined only can make it harder for the child parent relationship to build in a positive way.
Also, I must ask the following questions?
- What proactive methods are we taking to help the child who feels they bully? Are we offering them counseling? Or a mentor? Are we insuring their home life is a safe loving environment? I try to remember, "that you can’t make a child behave better, by making them feel worse. A child will only behave better when they feel better.”
- What about personal responsibility? At what age does a child become personally accountability for their actions. How to provide a set of consequences that lead back to prevention?
I am a firm believer we are all connected. We must learn how to empathize, love, accept and take care of each other. For example, just yesterday I read a wonderful post about a 22 year veteran middle school teacher in Oklahoma who set up a new activity called, the “Baggage Activity.” She asked the students what it meant to have baggage and they mostly said it was hurtful stuff you carry around on your shoulders.
She then asked them to write down on a piece of paper what was bothering them, what was heavy on their heart, what was hurting them, etc. No names were to be on a paper. They wadded the paper up, and threw it across the room.
A random student would pick up a piece of paper and would take turns reading out loud what their classmate wrote. After a student read a paper, she asked who wrote that, and if they cared to share.
She goes on to say how moved to tears she was by what these kids opened up and about and shared with the class.
Things like suicide, parents in prison, drugs in their family, being left by their parents, death, cancer, losing pets (one said their gerbil died cause it was fat, we giggled) and on and on.
The kids who read the papers would cry because what they were reading was tough. The person who shared (if they chose to tell us it was them) would cry sometimes too. It was an emotionally draining day, but she firmly believed her kids will judge a little less, love a little more, and forgive a little faster.
This bag continues to hang by her classroom door to remind her students that we all have baggage. We will leave it at the door. As they left she told them, they are not alone, they are loved, and we have each other’s back.
YES! This is what empathy, understanding, love, and acceptance does. It levels the playing field. We are all imperfectly perfect. We are all struggling in ways others often know nothing about. I LOVED what she did and I pray that other teachers around the country will deploy this activity in their classrooms.
There you have it. My shake down on school bullying. If you have any other ideas or techniques you have used to help your child with bullying issues, please drop them in the comments below.