Every parent dreads the thought that his or her child is being bullied, but not every parent understands what to do or even how to reach out to a child to find out. First, argues Patricia Evans, author of “Victory Over Verbal Abuse: A Healing Guide to Renewing Your Spirit and Reclaiming Your Life,” you need to watch for the warning signs.
“What you need to do is observe your children,” Evans says. She advises that you watch your children for behavior that seems out of the ordinary: If they’re more depressed lately, if they don’t want to go to school or if they’re closing their Facebook page when you walk by, for example.
When you decide to broach the subject, do so gently. Evans suggested that parents talk “after dinner, [and] just bring it up. ‘Do you notice any kids at school being bullied? Has anybody ever tried to put you down or call you names at school? Is there anything like that going on?’ Bring it out in the open,” she says.
If you notice the taunting taking a turn for the worse, don’t just sit back and assume that kids will be kids. Evans recommends getting involved.
“Talk to teachers,” advises Evans. “Talk to the principal. [See if they can] have a ‘no bullying, zero tolerance for bullying at this school’ [policy]. You really have to have the administration involved and the kids have to be in student counseling. You can’t just shame them in front of the school.”
Your child might be embarrassed to learn you’re taking the issue up with the school, but there are ways to make sure he or she is protected. Evans recommends asking for confidentiality when doing so, and giving the following script to your child: “There are some children with problems at your school, so I am going to talk to people who can establish a plan to help stop the bullying.”
Evans also suggests that children know how to defend themselves — nonviolently —when facing a bully.
She says to tell your kids: “If someone says something mean to you, look them in the eye — you might even point your finger at them — [and say] ‘That’s what YOU say.’”
Kids, she adds, should also know where to turn for help. “[Have them] think of five people that they could go to if they were being bullied.”
A bully’s mind
For bullies to become bullies, they have most likely experienced bullying at home from an older sibling or even a parent.
“People who bully are very disconnected inside,” Evans says. “They don’t feel centered, they don’t feel OK and they don’t feel like they can make friends.”
The Internet and bullying
The advent of technology has led to a new kind of bullying: abuse over the Web, on sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
Evans advises kids to “keep your social media private” and “report abuse.”?And let your statuses do the talking: “Keep a statement on your Facebook page: When people talk about people behind their back, they are usually lying.”