Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to help your kids deal with bullies...the REAL deal

When 17 year old Jesse Buchsbaum from Boyertown Area Senior High took his own life, it ignited a firestorm of debate, criticism and discussion. Could this tragedy have been prevented? Was Jesse being bullied? Who was responsible to protect him? We have been watching stories in the national headlines for months about other teens who have been teased, bullied and humiliated. This time, it hit too close to home and a young life was lost.

The truth is, despite many, many parents saying that THEIR child is also the victim of bullies, it is still a phenomenon that few truly understand, and even fewer know how to address.  In this blog, I hope to give some clear facts about bullying, and some concrete tips for both parents and kids to deal with bullies.

In short, bullying occurs when someone intentionally hurts or intimidates another person, and the person has a hard time defending his or herself.   Most of the time, bullying occurs over and over, and can include:
  • physical aggression, such as pushing, hitting or throwing things at a person
  • teasing or taunting someone
  • spreading rumors about someone
  • encouraging a group of kids to gang up on someone
  • purposely excluding a certain person from a group, just to be mean
  • spreading rumors, photos or other hurtful posting through electronic media (texting, social media such as facebook, emails, or posting video without someones permission)

So, now you know WHAT a bully does, but why do they engage in this mean and vicious behavior?  There are several reasons that kids become bullies:
  • it makes them feel better, smarter, or stronger than the person they are bullying
  • they see other kids doing it
  • they want to fit in with a certain group
  • it's easier than becoming the target of the bullies

Here are some concrete, ACTION-ORIENTED tips for how to help your child if they are the victim of bullies:

  • the first, and most important thing you can do as a parent is to LISTEN to your child with an open mind and open heart.
  • gather information about the situation, including the time, place and people involved
  • find out if there are witnesses to the incidents - other children, adults or teachers
  • contact school officials, especially if the bullying is occurring in school or on the bus.
  • expect the school to respond and to address the problem
  • do not tell your child to "just ignore it" as this may send the message that you do not take it seriously or minimize the situation
  • do not blame your child and say "what did you do to provoke it".  Bullying is never provoked, and is never acceptable
  • do not call the parents of the other child, this will often make matters worse
  • do not encourage your child to "just hit them back", as this may cause the situation to escalate, cause your child to get hurt, or cause him/her to be disciplined or expelled
  • do not react and retaliate against the bully, this will role model poor behavior for your child
Bullying is a community problem, and needs to be addressed at all levels: home, bus-stop, school, playground, and community. It takes a village to raise a child, and takes a strong, consistent message to combat bullying.  Most importantly, help is available.  If you need help, ASK A PSYCHOLOGIST!

This is a helpful website with lots of resources for parents, educators and other helpers to deal with the bullying problem including Tip Sheets and Fact Sheet that are printable resources.


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