Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Preventing Bullying

It seems that bullying is more prevalent today than it has ever been and, as parents, this is a scary thing. It is important for us to teach and protect our children from such abuse. The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) has started a campaign to protect youth from bullying and cyberbullying called The Circle of Respect. The campaign teaches that such behavior is unacceptable through a positive message that encourages respect and consideration for others.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Robin Young, who manages The Circle of Respect program. Young has appeared on several television and radio stations as an expert of bullying prevention and has been quoted in media sources such as Yahoo! News and The San Diego Tribune advising parents on how to protect their children from cyberbullying. I certainly learned a lot about how to help prevent bullying, especially with my own children, and am grateful for the chance to interview Robin.

NCPC Circle of Respect Interview Questions

1. What exactly is classified as bullying?
Bullying is a traumatic situation that can happen from childhood through to adulthood. Bullying is the repeated and systematic harassment by an individual or group of individuals. It’s about an imbalance of power that can bring either physical or social and emotional harm. No matter the tactic or age, bullying can have detrimental and long-lasting effects. It is important that we do not label our kids as bullies but instead address the bullying behavior. In a child’s world, a “bully” today can be the “victim” tomorrow.

2. Is bullying for girls and boys different? Should I approach boy bullying and girl bullying differently?
There is a difference in how boys and girls tend to bully each other. Boys tend to be more physically aggressive such as tripping, kicking or shoving. Girls tend to engage in relational bullying that can be categorized as emotional warfare or the “mean girls” syndrome. They resort to gossiping, name-calling or even social isolation towards the victim. There are two prominent authors whose books illustrate how girl bullying differs and can sometimes be more emotionally disturbing for kids. Rachel Simons’ book, Odd Girl Out, and Rosalind Wiseman’s, QueenBees and Wannabes, are excellent resources for parents to read. Both authors are part of the National Crime Prevention Council’s Circle of Respect book club.

3. What can I teach my child to help him/her prevent bullying? What should they do when they are bullied?
The best approach to prevent bullying is to talk with your child about how to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner. We call it conflict resolution and parents need to model that behavior at home as well. Parents should also encourage activities and friendships that build a child’s self-esteem so they may have better coping mechanisms if they are bullied.

We tell kids to stop, talk, and walk when faced with a bullying situation. Stop and try to talk things out or walk away with friends or to a trusted adult who can help in the situation. NCPC also encourages parents to seek help to resolve the situation. Approach calmly the other parents of the child who is doing the bullying or talk to a guidance counselor if the situation happens at school.

4. Should I approach the parents of a bully? Some parents think getting bullied is a part of growing up. What if they do not think it is a problem?
NCPC acknowledges that it is tricky to approach the parents. When the behavior occurs within the schools, we suggest that parents notify and speak with a school administrator, guidance counselor or teacher and work on resolving the issue with them directly. However, an incident outside of school grounds may call for different measures. If a parent feels confident enough to peacefully resolve the situation, we do encourage them to discuss the issue with the other parent. Although it is also important to remember that the child who plays the role of a bully may be having some problems themselves, whether at home or school. You should also be prepared for the parents to not believe their child is exhibiting bullying behavior or dismiss it as just “kids being kids”. Of course, we know that bullying should not be viewed as a rite of passage for any child.

5. Should I encourage my kids to stand up for other kids being bullied? Won't that cause them to be bullied?
Statistics show an estimated 60% of teenage student’s witness bullying or taunting at least once a day. And over half of the time, when someone steps in, the bullying stops within 10 seconds. Bystander intervention is one of the most powerful tools that can be used against bullying. We need to encourage our children to be part of that group. Explain to the child that standing up for the victim can mean simply stepping in and helping the victim walk away or seeking help from an adult. It is also important to explain the difference between tattling and actually helping, which can help motivate the child to seek help when necessary.

6. What do I do if my child is the bully?
Ironic as it may sound, a bully may not necessarily have any type of self-esteem issues. Instead, their behavior may be indicative of problems within the home or other personal relationships, which help trigger the bullying behavior. Parents should also remember children learn to model the behavior they see at home. Therefore, a parent may want to analyze their use of conflict resolution, making sure they set the proper examples of how to resolve conflicts with others in a peaceful manner. This can definitely help the child to understand through example, what and how to handle conflicts with others.

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