Bullying is defined as aggressive, unwanted behaviors that are centered on a power imbalance. According to a survey by the US Department of Education, the prevalence of bullying is at an all-time low. In 2013, the incidence of bullying dropped from 28% to 22% among kids ages 12 to 18. Another survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control also found that 20% of kids in grades 9-12 experience bullying.
Although your child might get sick of it and give the same response daily, this is where conversations about “How was your day?” are beneficial. Ask questions like, “How was lunch? Who did you sit with?” or “What was your absolute favorite part of the day? Any bad parts?” Communication is the key.
Parents can encourage resiliency in their children by finding creative ways to deal with bullies. The bad news is, there might always be a bully, in one form or another, in our children’s lives. For example, a professor in college, a boss in a future profession, or even coworkers can be potential sources of bullying. Teaching children how to manage their reactions instead of trying to change the behavior of others will provide coping skills that children can use for a lifetime. Activities that are positive and enjoyable will improve your child’s confidence and give them information that tells them, “I am really good at this. This bully is totally wrong when he calls me stupid.” Also, learning to use tools, like humor, and direct communication, can help to deal with bullies in the moment.
It is important to know that your child is not a bully, but he or she may be acting like a bully. It doesn’t feel good to be labeled, and labeling a child as “a bully” solidifies him or her in that role. Ask your child, “What do you know about bullying?” and “When you and your friends interact with this child at school, how might that be considered bullying?” or “Have you ever left someone out of your group on purpose? What was that like?” Questions like this are non-blaming and encourage space for discussion. Who knows, maybe they were bullies at some point, too?
When bullying occurs, it takes a team to approach the situation and make it stop. When educators, parents, and mental health workers come together to advocate for others, we are teaching our children to conquer adversity in teams. Let’s set the stage! As adults, we have a powerful role with children. Let’s be kind and respectful to one another and model positive behaviors for our younger generations.