How to Protect Your Child from Bullies

Five points to consider now.

 

Imagine your child has a target on his or her back at school or is wearing a sign that says “Kick me.” Everyone sees the target or sign but him. Imagine how lonely it must feel walking down the hallway to jeers and taunts, facing unfriendly faces in the cafeteria, and being afraid to walk home or go on the bus because the bully might be waiting there for you.

Few situations can make a child and his or her parents feel more powerless, helpless and overwhelmed than bullying. Here are specific steps you can take to protect your child.

 

1. Listen.

Many children never tell their parents how bad things really get for them at school. Bullying can be very isolating for the victim. If you notice your child suddenly doesn’t want to go to school or becomes upset after going online, he or she might be the target of bullying or cyberbullying. Encourage your child to come to you for help, no matter the circumstance. They might think they’re to blame because they tried to fight back, or because they didn’t say anything at all. The meaner and harsher the bullies are, the gentler, kinder, and more encouraging you need to be at home  to counterbalance all the ugly behavior your child has been exposed to at school and online.

 

2. Show compassion for your child.

It’s easy for a parents frustration to turn into anger—and for a child to pick up on this. Kids who are being bullied frequently blame themselves and wonder how they can get rid of this unwelcome attention.

A little tenderness goes a long way. Seek alternative sources of kindness, validation, acceptance, and respect for your child whether it’s a martial arts class, summer camp, or friends from church or temple. Let your child express his or her feelings of hurt, sadness, and anger in a safe space. Physical activities and creative pursuits are particularly good for releasing fear and expressing emotions. Keep in mind that victims of cyberbullying are often more depressed than victims of physical bullying. Some families find it helpful to move their child into a new school or school district for a fresh start.

 

3. Turn up the heat.

A bully likes to keep his victims on his radar and target them for abuse. This is how a bully gets attention, but when the bully gets on the radar of teachers, students, and school personnel, it’s not nearly so funny or safe for the bully to lash out.

Enlist the help of your child’s teacher, any teacher’s aides, PTA moms, security guards, school secretaries, and the school nurse to be on the lookout for your child’s welfare, and direct your child where to go if he needs help. If he’s always getting roughed up in the bathroom, help him come up with a plan not to go by himself.

 

4. Keep a record.

Tell your child to try and remember as much as possible from each incident—and to get specific about details such as what the bully wore, said, and did. Were there any witnesses or grown-ups around? Where did this happen? Encourage your child to focus and think instead of simply reacting to the bully’s intimidation tactics. Instead of being a passive target, your child is learning how to be an active and observant advocate.

Write down everything your child tells you and keep it in a separate journal for reference. Keep records of all the calls you make and communications you have with the school, including e-mails. Be sure to note the date, time, and person you talked to about the complaint and what their response was, if they promised to follow up. You might have to call or e-mail several times. Take screen shots of any vicious gossip that appears on Facebook and MySpace pages.

If the bullying escalates into violence, a pattern of daily harassment, or physical threats, consider filing a police report or hiring an attorney. (If the bullying is on the basis of race or sexual orientation, you might be able to find an attorney through a non-profit group such as the ACLU.) Keeping a history of incidents will help you substantiate your case and make sure your child’s experience is taken seriously.

 

5. “I don’t want to be a snitch! The other kids will hate me.”

Sometimes children will worry that the bullys taunts and torture will get worse if they dare to speak up and complain. This is a valid concern. Tell your child that very rarely do bullies get better on their own without some kind of intervention.

Remember, when you fight a bully, you are defending and protecting the rights of every child in the school—not just yours. With all the increased scrutiny and questioning, your kid may be feeling more like a zero than a hero. Remind your kid of her heroic qualities and that her speaking up can make all the difference in protecting herself and another child.

About The Author

Suelain Moy
Suelain Moy has devoted many consonants and vowels to the study of babies, toddlers, pregnant mamas, teenagers, celebrities, and other wild things. A published author and writer, she has contributed articles and reviews to many national magazines and parenting web sites, including Parenting, Entertainment Weekly, Good Housekeeping, American Baby, Parents.com, Kaboose.com, and BabyZone.com. She is the author of Names to Grow On: Choosing A Name Your Baby Will Love. When she is not writing, she can be found directing lost tourists wandering the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

10 Responses to How to Protect Your Child from Bullies

  1. Jenni says:

    Thanks for a good article. Our family went through this a couple of years ago. It was so hard to watch my child get depressed about going to school- a place he used to love. It was even harder that there was more than 1 bully, and they lied about what they did. It took them being caught in the act by a school employee for anything to be done. The problems still persisted. We were able to send our child out of state to stay with some relatives to get away from it all. The next year we changed to a smaller, close knit school with a lot more parent involvement.

  2. dune456 says:

    Thank you for such a great article. My daughter gets bullied all the time. And it effects our whole family. I get so upset and she thinks there’s nothing good about her and I have to calm down to reassure her that she’s perfect at least in my life . I tell her to stand up for herself but like the writer said even more than just trying to be there for your child has to be done. Last year we ended up in the principles office with four core girls and then another ten more after that all from just one incident. Kids are so cruel these days and know i never under estimate just how cruel they are and how once the bullies get ahold on you they can even turn the whole class against ur child.. and you really have to watch the internet and the text messages also. That group of girls would text her and post stuff on the internet as well. It was aweful. My daughter still has to go to school with these kids. I feel for her and any child who suffers at the hands of their tormenters.. God Bless You all

  3. VivaV says:

    So important to talk about this issue. My kids are college age now and cyber bullying, even just eight years ago, was really not an issue. I would have never thought about this aspect of bullying, but as soon as your article mentioned it, a lightbulb went on — what a harmful twist in an old fashioned problem. Thank you for talking about it!

  4. Suelain says:

    @Jenni: I am so glad to hear that the bullying is in your *past* and that you were able to think through and past all that and find a real solution for your child.
    @Dune456: It’s true. The bullying can catch on like a virus, and sometimes it seems like the mean kids only get meaner. Stay strong, and keep showing up for your daughter. Pay close attention to her self-esteem and self-worth. Sounds like your daughter has a great ally and advocate in you! Hope you two can do something fun together that can take your mind off the bullies.

    • dune456 says:

      Thank you for your words of encouragement. Those girls are at it again but my daughter doesn’t want to be a snitch or have me help in any way. So I found myself reading this article again for fresh inspirations. I want to go behind her back and call school and girls parents but she would not trust me with what’s happening. She’d close up and retreat even more. My poor child. How it hurts as a parent to be so powerless to help. I do listen and encourage her to take action, but they have her so beat down that she is starting to think that it’s her fault. That the real problem is her make-up, not theirs. I’m heart broken and so is my child. I do show her, as much as possssible that it’s not her. Just how do I fix it? Do I go behind her back? Oh i just can’t have her think that i can’t be trusted. Silly mean kids are slowly hurting my daughters beautful spirit..

  5. Juli says:

    Thank you for sharing this great information, Suelain This is an issue that has, unfortunately, touched the lives of so many kids and their families. This is really great advice. I always thought that bullying wouldn’t be an issue for my kids until maybe they were in junior high or high school. However, my daughter, who is 9 now, was bullied by a girl in 2nd grade. She tormented her for the entire school year. It’s frightening that it happens to younger and younger children these days. It is so important, as you mention in your article, to listen to your kids and let them know you are there to help.

    My daughter was hesitant to talk about it – but we explained how important it was. She did speak up and so did we. We spoke to teachers, the principal and a school social worker. We requested that our daughter be placed in a different class the next year and she was. Fortunately, the situation has improved.

    I realize that bullying can become much more serious as kids get older and are in high school. Talking about this issue when they are young is so important. We also constantly tell our kids to stand up for other children who are being bullied.

    This article was so helpful – thanks again for posting it. I look forward to reading more of your advice.

  6. GrammaK says:

    When my kids were young and in elementary school they had to deal with a couple of instances of bullying…with my daughter it took several trips to the principals office to get them to act appropriately and remove the bully (he was not just bullying my daughter)…with my son it was harder to deal with and he finally stood his ground against the bully and his trouble with him ended…

    I think we need to be more proactive and demand that school be a safe place for our children….I also think that If the net ans texting is another route that is being taken that you report this to local law enforcement, it is a crime to send threatening messages….I also would not encourage my child to have open access of the computer or the cellphone…texting is not a requirement for a happy life…not being attacked is…I think some people think “why should my child have to change her actions” (as in not using IM or texting) but you can’t be attack where your not available…words can’t hurt that are not seen…

    I’m certainly not saying that taking a firm stand is an easy route to go….but it beats being bullied anyday of the week to me…

    GK~

  7. marti says:

    Thanks so much for this article. At home we reinforce self confidence and role play a lot with how to handle school situations.
    My son has a friend who at times has tried to bully him or just treats him badly. At first we tried to talk to the parents about this negative behaviour but they responded with “your childs not perfect either.” This friend is an on again off again relationship, depending on how he decides to treat our son.

    I wish there was more information out there for parents to recognize when their child is becoming the bully. No one wants to believe this negative title belongs to their child and maybe some children are not complete bullies. What are the signs a parent can look for when it could be that their child is being the bully?

  8. GrammaK says:

    Parents who refuse to recognize that their child is a bully are not parenting well…..none of us want to think that our child would engage in that kind of behavior…and please note that children who are the victim of a bully have been know to resort to being bully’s themselves against younger/weaker children…

    If a parent won’t listen then have your child stay away from the kid….I think too many parents are afraid they will be perceived as rude if they tell a child they are not welcome in their home, but your child’s safety, both physically and mentally, is much more important.

    The signs of your child being a bully would be If suddenly he/she stops getting invitations for play dates or other communal activities…speaking aggressively to others….unable to have age appropriate emotional control…has been a victim of a bully or of aggressive behavior…is quiet/withdrawn…If your child won’t speak to you find someone else to try and draw out what is going on with your child…

    We all need to take a firm stand on bullying….if school officials don’t take this seriously in your community then ban together as parents and take your concerns to a higher level….nothing will change If nothing is done………

    GK~

  9. Person says:

    I am homeschooled, so bulling is not an Issue (Unless you count sibling to sibling!)