Four Ways to Overcome Bullying
Kindness counts. But sometimes it seems that no matter how much we instill the importance of being kind into our children, they are forced to face adversity. How we and they handle adversity is much different than years ago.
Bullies have been around for thousands of years. Recently, however, we have begun to see the significant repercussions that can come from bullying. Suicide rates are higher than ever before and the CDC reports that it is the second leading cause of death in 15 – 24-year-old Americans.
October is Bullying Prevention Month and we want to help put an end to bullying by providing our families with important information on how to help their kids identify bullying and appropriately handle it.
Teach kids how to identify bullying.
There are many different types of bullying, however, it is important to understand the foundational element of power and control. Bullies use their power to control or harm others. The main types include verbal, social and physical. In verbal bullying, words are used to harm others. This can appear as teasing, name-calling, taunts, and threats. In social bullying, the goal is to harm someone’s reputation. This can appear as rumors, leaving someone out, public embarrassment, or telling others not to be friends with another. Physical bullying is pretty easy to imagine as it may include hitting, kicking, tripping and even inappropriate hand gestures. Bullying can occur anywhere including at school, in sports, on the playground, on the bus, and online.
It is less about the act than how the victim responds to the act.
Teasing, name-calling and other common forms of verbal bullying may seem like normal occurrences among kids. It may also seem that kids need to learn to deal with adversity as a normal part of life. We disagree. While learning important skills for managing negative attacks is very important, the impacts the attacks have on the child being bullied is the most important factor. Some kids have a “thicker skin” than others and can brush off the negative comments. But others may have a more drastic reaction that increases their risk of suicide. Take each instance as it is and don’t brush off teasing as just a normal part of being a kid. Shut it down every time it is seen or heard. Research shows that adults who quickly and consistently respond to bullying teach that it is not acceptable and over time stop the behavior.
Teach kids to be an upstander.
We know a bystander is someone who stands by when something is happening and observes the act. Most kids are guilty of being bystanders when it comes to bullying because it is hard to stand up to peers. It takes a lot of guts to say, “No, this is not okay.” Being an upstander means intervening when bullying is seen. It can mean speaking out against it or diffusing the situation by redirecting the conversation. Walking with the person being bullied to help prevent it from happening or questioning the behavior and why it is being done is another option. There is strength in numbers. If kids join together and say bullying is not okay, the peer pressure will help shut down the behavior. Teach kids to stand up to bullying by being an upstander in school, in sports and everywhere in between.
Build a healthy and safe environment.
Even the strongest kids can crumble when presented with relentless bullying attacks. Change the dynamics of the environment by building a culture based on respect and inclusion. People are different and that is what makes them so beautiful. Teach kids to celebrate each other’s differences. Set ground rules and reward good behavior. Establish a reporting system that makes it safe and easy for kids to report bullying if and when it occurs.
If you are concerned about the mental health of your child, please call our office today. Your child’s pediatrician is here to advocate for your child. As needed, we will make recommendations or referrals to ensure they get the right help.
For more information on bullying, visit stopbullying.gov.