How can parents help to prevent bullying at their child's school?
- Talk with and listen to your kids - every day. Research shows that approximately half the children who have been bullied never tell their parents about it. Children are often too ashamed of themselves to tell anyone; sometimes they feel that no one can help, not even their parents.1
- Spend time at school and recess. Research shows that 67% of bullying happens when adults are not present. Whether you can volunteer once a week or once a month, you can make a real difference just by showing up.
- Be a good example of kindness and leadership. Your kids learn a lot about power relationships from watching you. Any time you speak to another person in a hurtful or abusive way, you’re teaching your child that bullying is ok.
- Learn the signs. If you suspect that your child might be bullied, talk with your child’s teacher or find ways to observe his or her peer interactions to determine whether or not your suspicions might be correct.
- Create healthy anti-bullying habits early. Help develop anti-bullying and anti-victimization habits early in your children, as early as kindergarten. Coach your children what not to do - hitting, pushing, teasing, being mean to others. Equally if not more importantly, teach your children what to do - kindness, empathy, fair play, and turn-taking are critical skills for good peer relations.
- Help your child’s school address bullying effectively. Whether your children have been bullied or not, you should know what their school is doing to address bullying. Research shows that “zero-tolerance” policies aren’t effective. What works better are ongoing educational programs that help create a healthy social climate in the school.
- Establish household rules about bullying. Your children need to hear from you explicitly that it’s not normal, okay, or tolerable for them to bully, to be bullied, or to stand by and watch other kids be bullied. If your child is bullying, you can help him or her find other ways to exert their personal power, status, and leadership at school. Work with your child, his or her teachers, and the principal to implement a kindness plan at school.
- Teach your child how to be a good witness. Children can often effectively diffuse a bullying situation by yelling “Stop! You’re bullying!” Must bullies stop within 10 seconds when someone tells him or her to stop.
- Spread the word that bullying should not be a normal part of childhood. Some adults hesitate to act when they observe or hear about bullying because they think of bullying as a typical phase of childhood that must be endured. It is important for everyone to understand that all forms of bullying - physical, verbal, social (gossip, rumors, exclusion from the group), and cyberbullying are NOT a normal part of childhood.
- Adults (teachers and parent volunteers) in the classroom should be aware of class social structures. Which children typically affiliate together? Which children are leaders and socially influential? Which children are socially marginalized? Purposefully pairing and grouping children so that children who bully and those who are victims can work together helps to prevent bullying outside the classroom.
Next Article: Help Your Child Cope With Teasing
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