My Kid is Being Bullied
There is perhaps no worse feeling for a parent than the feeling that you are unable to protect your child. We expect school to be a place where our child is supported, nurtured, protected and afforded the opportunity to learn and grow. So if you feel your child is being bullied at school, you may feel violated on behalf of your child’s rights and your own expectations. Your immediate response may be outrage and anger, which is of course a normal reaction. After all, this is the child you are committed to love and protect and nurture.
Beneath your anger is fear. You love your child and that love effectively can be translated into action and support for your child. In terms of emotional support for your child, I would like to offer you some perspective that may help if you suspect he or she is a victim of bullying:
- Any truth behind the bullying is irrelevant: If kids at school are taunting your child for being “fat,” “stupid,” “ugly,” your child needs to know the teasing is ALWAYS wrong. You can try and help your child take action toward healthier eating or better academic performance or anything else—for his/her own sake and with the love and support of family–but this should be clearly separated from the bullying; it should be an action your child takes for himself/herself, not a reaction to bullying. It is important that as a parent you do not send a message to your child that, “maybe if you stopped wearing those shirts,” or “maybe if you got your hair cut,” or “maybe if you joined one of their groups,” things would be better. Do not give these bullies ANY validation. If you do, you risk (inadvertently) conveying to your child he/she somehow deserves the bullying.
- Things change: Your child needs to understand that things can and will change. A different route to school, a different look, a different friend, a different school year. Bullying is not forever.
- It only takes one friend: Kids who are isolated tend to get bullied. It only takes one friend to change the dynamic. Encourage your child to look for kindness and move toward it.
- The role of the bystander: The most important aspect of the bullying dynamic is neither the bully nor the victim—it is the BYSTANDER. Teach your child to take action if they witness someone being bullied. Nothing dramatic may be in order: It could be as simple as a “Whoa, chill!” to the bully or an offer to the child being targeted to “Come and walk with us.”
- Bear witness, offer support: Let your son or daughter express whatever feelings they have with no judgment from you. Don’t minimize what is happening.
- Self-defense = self-confidence: The practice of martial arts can give your child the confidence he or she needs to redirect a destructive dynamic.
For right action to take with your school, the following link (from Scholastic) is a good resource. It outlines steps you as a parent can take at school to prevent or stop bullying of your child: http://www.scholastic.com/resources/article/be-your-childs-advocate. It is straight-forward and pragmatic.
Know that an open heart and calm head will help you and your child to walk through this chapter and enter the next one with powerful skills and stronger bonds.