I remember watching others deal with bullies as a Junior High kid (I don’t hear that used much anymore. It’s Middle School now I guess), but I don’t recall having a bully in my early education life. We had “mean” kids. You know, that child that likes to pick boogers and wipe on everyone. The child that seemed to enjoy taking your crayons and breaking them. They may even say a few hurtful words to you on the playground. And if they did get physical with you, it was them pushing you out of line for the slide.
It seems our kids are growing up a bit faster and meaner a bit earlier (or is it that as kids we just didn’t realize certain things?) Either way, let’s talk about bullying.
Definition of Bullying
I like the way stopbullying.gov defines bullying: Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
I do believe bullying goes beyond school-aged children. You have adults that are bullied in the workplace every day. But, for the purpose of this post, we are looking at bullying for school-aged children.
Determining When Your Child Is Being Bullied
Talking to parents about a child encountering bullies is a bit touchy, but hopefully, I address it appropriately. Yes, there’s a huge bullying problem. But, as parents, we sometimes overuse the term. Remember, the behavior is aggressive, power imbalance and the behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated. I hear parents say their child is being bullied when in fact another child is being MEAN (yes, there is a difference). Just because someone will not allow your child to play with a toy doesn’t make them a bully. Sometimes we exclude people and say someone is bullying us, but the exclusion isn’t necessarily intentional. From a personal note, I tell my children that if someone doesn’t want them to participate in their “group,” then to think of it as a blessing. We don’t want to associate with others that exclude anyone.
- Bullies try using embarrassing information to control
- Bullies will use physical strength to control
- Bullies will repeat their actions
Yes, we pay attention to the stories our kids tell us about Robert or Mary breaking their crayons (I know I don’t want to keep replacing crayons at school), ignoring them when they speak, taking their things, saying something about their clothes, etc. All of these things are hurtful and should be addressed (we will get to this topic in a future post), but again, we must be careful with loosely throwing out “my child is being bullied.” When we do this, school administration ignores us when we need them to take actions for real. Here are some things to watch for.
A Few Things To Watch For – Warning Signs of Bullying
Here are a few warnings to watch for with your child. The best method to help awareness is to welcome and maintain open communication. Trust me; I know kids may try to hide things. I have three children, and now that our eldest is in middle school she doesn’t always share things with us immediately, but my husband and I have been pretty good about identifying when something is bothering her. And YES, she’s dealt with a “MEAN GIRL” or two.
- Bruises and torn clothes – at this point, the line has indeed been crossed. Hopefully, you are aware of the situation by this point.
- Avoiding school or extra- curricular activities – if your child usually is up, excited and ready to go and all of a sudden they don’t want to attend
- Appears upset when they arrive home from school – ask questions and LISTEN. It could just be a bad day, it could be a mean kid, it could be a bully. This is when your knowledge of YOUR child comes into play.
- Complaints of being sick frequently – is he/she trying to avoid someone? Maybe stressing about having to face someone? Make opportunities to questions and listen. Don’t always dismiss it as your child just wanting a vacation day.
- Missing items – Money, books, other items missing or stolen.
- Loss of sleep and appetite – Are they having nightmares or just seems sick all the time?
- Unexplained decline in grades or friends
- Destructive actions – This is the scariest to me. Running away, inflicting bodily harm to self, talking about or attempting suicide.
My child has telltale signs, and it’s when she repeatedly talks about a person and situation. It starts with her coming in from school, putting her things on the table, a sigh and then she’s off to the races. Sometimes I may ask if this person is bothering her and she will say no. During dinner she will repeat the story to my husband, then she will come into the room at bedtime talking about the situation. We may have to listen to the story for about three days before she will finally admit there’s an issue. As I listen, I have to make a parental judgment call, and this is where knowing YOUR child comes into play. Each of my kids has their level of tolerance, and each addresses run-ins with the “Mean” kid or bully differently.
What Can I Do To Help My Child Avoid Bullies
I wish a magic wand could solve this, but it can’t. Bullying has been going on forever and will continue. For my home, we focus on dealing with bullies; coping skills. I can share the advice I give my kids. That is this, “stand up for yourself!” When someone mistreats you, speak up IMMEDIATELY and let them know to leave you alone! If they continue, be sure to tell a teacher, counselor or principal. Then come home to let us know. From there I make a mental note of the child’s name. Why? Just in case there are new encounters. If the school isn’t addressing the issue from what my child is telling them, I will follow-up with an email. Yes, make sure you have documentation. (I plan to do a whole blog post about addressing concerns with schools). If we need to have a sit-down meeting, then we will. I think the most important thing to teach your child is to stand up for themselves. Some people recommend ignoring; I skip this for my home. You need to speak up! The first line of defense is self.
Know You, Be You, Love You
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This originally posted on my site preschool2teen April 15, 2016. I’m happy to announce all my sites can be found here in one location now.
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