Families and Parent Educators Share Tips for Stopping Bullying
Berkeley mom Claudette Johnson was concerned when her fourth-grade daughter, Louise, started dragging her feet on school mornings, withdrawing from activities, and gaining weight. Then Johnson learned from another parent that one of Louise’s friends was bullying her.
Bullying—which can include hitting, tripping, name-calling, threatening, or shunning a classmate—is more common than parents may think. By some estimates, more than 160,000 kids miss school every day because of bullying.
“Bullies often go after kids who are vulnerable or who are perceived as different,” says Lynne Wasley, senior parent advisor at Matrix Parent Network and Resource Center in Novato. Parents and educators discuss how families can intervene to stop bullying.
Be alert for warning signs
Children who are being bullied may cry or make themselves sick to avoid going to school, but other signs can be more subtle. “Any change in daily activity, how they eat, how they’re sleeping” can be a warning sign, says Wasley.
When parents are involved at school, they can see how students interact with each other. “Come early and ob-serve what’s going on in the schoolyard, or drop in on the class,” says Irene van der Zande, executive director of Kidpower, a Santa Cruz-based nonprofit that offers skill-building on personal safety and anti-bullying education.
Talk with your child
Johnson used a gentle approach to talk with her daughter about the bullying. She asked Louise how things were going at school. Later she mentioned that, when she was young, she was the target of a “mean girl.” Within a few days, Louise opened up, telling her mother that her friend was calling her names and demeaning her.
Johnson helped her daughter think of different ways to respond to situations that might come up at school. “I [tried] to get her to be more assertive about things,” says Johnson. If the other girl ordered Louise to get some crayons, Johnson suggested saying, “I’ll get them this time if you get them next time.”
“Don’t lecture” when a child talks to you about being bullied, adds van der Zande. “Just say, ‘Tell me more, and we will figure out what to do.’” Parents can coach children on what to say to the other child and role play situations and saying the words.
Reprinted with the permission of the Action Alliance for Children.
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