Family & Social Child Developement
What can you do if your child is being bullied?
Bullying can happen anywhere - on the playground, in school, or at the mall - and as a parent, you can't always be there to stop it. Here's some pointers on how to be vigilant for signs of bullying and how to proactively teach your child to defend themselves.
When children are at play, squabbles, arguments and harmless fights are bound to arise. It is all a part of growing up, and as a parent, it is best if you do not get overly involved. Navigating conflict helps build self confidence, the ability to think independently, and improves social skills. But the same cannot be said for bullying. Bullying, especially amongst children is an absolute no-no and as a parent you must step in to ensure that it is not encouraged.
How can you be alert to bullying?
Bullying involves the deliberate use of force, threat, or coercion to hurt, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others.
Here are some of the key signs to watch out for in your child:
- They are generally moody and depressed
- They are afraid to take part in school activities
- They make up excuses to skip school (e.g. faking illness)
- They have difficulty sleeping
- They have an unexplained loss of appetite
- They have unexplainable injuries or a loss of valuables
When does bullying start?
According to Child Trends, a leading non-profit research organization in the United States, different types of bullying peak at different ages. Physical intimidation is most prevalent amongst children under the age of 10. Although rough play incidents can be observed among kids as early as 2-4, it is typically too early to be called bullying. Kids of that age are testing boundaries and may use aggressive behaviour to defend possessions, territory or friendships, but not to deliberately hurt or dominate others. It's best to respectfully teach them about boundaries and empathy to prevent these behaviours from developing into bullying. By ages 4-6, kids may start using bullying behaviours to consciously threaten, intimidate or hurt other children. Relational aggression (excluding someone or getting others to hurt someone) peaks between the age group 10-13 years.
Here are some steps that you can take to help your child deal with bullying:
Help your child understand what bullying is
Educate your child on what type of behaviour is acceptable from a peer/friend and what is not. For example, if someone accidentally bumps into them, then that is not bullying. But they must know that repeated aggressive behaviour such as name calling, hitting, throwing things and so on are not acceptable.
Teach them to respond to bullies
When it comes to managing bullies, responding assertively is key. Here are a few ways in which your child can respond effectively to a bully:
- Keep their cool: Take a few deep breaths or count from one to ten. They can also move away from the situation immediately without retaliating and sit near an adult they trust
- Ignore the bully: Most bullies seek a reaction and when they fail to get one, then they are most likely to be discouraged. Teach your child to stop and walk away or turn his/her attention to something else
- Respond firmly: Encourage your child to be firm in her speech and say "yes" or "no" depending on what the situation demands. For example, if they do not want to part with a toy, then they must say No politely and firmly and if it is their turn to hand over the toy, then they must be willing to do so with a "Yes".
- Stand up for themselves If your child is being treated rashly, then they must make their displeasure felt and speak up for themselves. This gives them a better sense of control and self confidence. However, if they sense an unsafe situation, they must move away from the area immediately and seek an adult's help.
Speak to your child's teachers about bullying
If you suspect your child is being bullied in school, it is your duty to inform the school staff. Some parents may hesitate to inform teachers for fear of being seen as an overprotective parent or for fear of making the situation worse. However, parents should never be afraid to ask for help when it comes to bullying. Set up a meeting with your child's teacher and them for their observations on how they think your child is getting along with their classmates, and if they have ever noticed any unusual behaviour, like your child being isolated or excluded from their peers' activities. The school should investigate your concerns immediately.
Be a proactive parent
Get involved in school to get to know your child's peers, and you can make sure to send them to play groups that are friendly and not hostile. Alternatively, if your child is young, you can be proactive and host play dates yourself, so that your child can develop their friendships and social skills in a safe environment.
Ignoring bullying is never a solution. Whether your child may be the bully or the bullied, it is crucial to take corrective action. The incidents that occur during childhood play a huge role in shaping your child's personality into adulthood. It is important as parents to be attentive and responsive.
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