As a school psychologist, Bully Prevention wasn’t relegated to a month of awareness. It was a topic we addressed all year long. As a professional it was a frustrating topic because although we could implement effective school wide strategies it always felt we were a few steps behind intervening. As a parent it is heart breaking reading the stories from victims of bullying. That being said since MY children weren’t bullies, and MY children weren’t victims I haven’t thought much about the topic from a parent point of view. Now, as I play both roles, parent and professional, I realize bullying is not just a problem for a school or a child, it is a problem parents are responsible for solving as well.
Parents, you are your children’s first teacher and it is on your home front where you teach your children how not to be a bully, not to be a bystander in a bullying situation, and not to be the victim of bullying. Here is what you can do to prevent bullying and prevent your child from being a victim:
1. Create a home environment that is caring, kind, and giving to others.
- Model for your children how to treat others with respect, kindness, and patience.
- Teach your child how to be tolerant and accepting of others and your children will generalize these skills across settings outside the home.
- Highlight bullying behaviors you witness in the news, your community, and in the shows you watch. Help them see the roles (bully, bystander, victim) different people and characters play, and the impact those roles are making on others. them.
- Children learn the good, the bad and the ugly from their parents. Recognize subtle ways you may be normalizing behaviors that are borderline bullying. Do you gossip? Do you tease? Are you overly sarcastic with your kids? Do you point out flaws in others? Do you stand by and let other people make insensitive comments or inaccurate judgements about people?
2. Communicate with your kids.
- Be available to your kids when they come to you for help. A child who knows they can go to their parent and share a concern is more resilient when it comes to handling problems like bullying.
- Listen to their concerns and be empathetic about their feelings. Regardless if your child is struggling because they are a victim, or the bully, help them understand you, as their parent, support them and will help them through their challenges.
- Keep the conversation going about bullying with your kids as they grow up. Ask questions about what they are seeing at school, on the bus, and in the hallways.
- Help them understand what a bully is and isn’t. Determine together what bullying looks like and sounds like at different ages and in different grades.
- Teach them how bystanders to bullying perpetuates the problem and condones bullying.
- Help them take the perspective of a victim and talk about what it might feel like to be a victim.
- Share your experiences with bullying and encourage them to share their own with you.
3. Teach social-emotional learning.
- Teach your child how to resolve conflicts with peers in ways that are socially appropriate.
- Role play scenarios in which your child may encounter a bully and provide strategies: i.e. Walking away, saying Stop, going for help.
- Encourage your children to develop a sense of self-efficacy, their personal belief system in which they have the confidence to exert the needed behaviors to make the right decisions in a given situation.
4. Educate yourself on your role in bully prevention. Check out these resources:
- RFK Center Bully Prevention At Home
- Stop Bullying
- KidsHealth Helping Kids Deal with Bullies
- Cyberbullying Research Center
- Safe Kids
- Character Counts
Parenting on the Home Front has a goal to help parents understand their role in their child’s development. If you are concerned your child may be experiencing bullying, do not hesitate to reach out to your school community or mental health professional for help and guidance. We’re in this together!