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The Big Issues About Bullying - What Parents Need to Know

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With all the media attention on bullying and release of the movie, Bully, I have a few questions starting with

what is bullying?

and

is bullying different than other aggressive behavior?

Education.com defines bullying as:

  1. Intentional
  2. Repeated
  3. Situation where there’s a difference in power in the two participants

This is different than occasional bad behavior, when tempers flair and your child punches someone else. Or when your child pulls hair. Those are examples of growing up says Kat Eden of Education.com and experimenting socially-- behaviors that kids do while they're learning what’s okay and what isn’t.

 

Who are the Bullies? 

Rosalind Weisman is a bullying expert, writer, parent, and advocate who wrote the book, Queen Bees and Wannabees. She says, "[Bullying is] not what we typically think of. It's not always the kid who's pushing kids down on the playground.”

 

Bullies can be your friends and classmates.

 

Michelle Anthony, author of Little Girls Can Be Mean, tells me over coffee, “The best friend - worst enemy is actually incredibly common. It’s very confusing for kids,” says Anthony who adds, “their idea of bullying is very stereotypical, not the best friend / worst enemy.

 

Anthony adds, “Girls in general are trying to find power in the relationships, that is why we find mean behavior – begin in elementary school, in general kids are mean because they’re trying to serve a purpose for themselves.”

 

How Can You Help Your Child?

Parents, listen up. Telling your child to

- just ignore the bully,

- walk away,

- play with someone else

DOESN’T WORK.

 

Why not? Because you're putting it all back on the child who might not be able or want to do those things. For example, Anthony’s own daughter still wanted to be friends with the girl who bullied her. She didn't want to play with someone else. Yet.

As a parent, you can instead empower your child with these steps from Anthony's book. Observe your child, listen to your child and empathize, guide your child to think of solutions, support your child in action. Read more about the book and the steps on Imagination Soup.

 

What kinds of programs in schools work against bullying?

On the phone today, Kat Eden of Education.com told me that schools that are effective in preventing bullying are starting with elementary schools and creating a culture of inclusion and acceptance, and integrating these skills into the classroom curriculum.  “The bulk of bullying is in middle school,” Eden shares. “So, the best years of bullying prevention are in elementary school. It’s up to elementary schools so that when they go off to middle schools, they’re in a much better place.”

According to Eden, parents can choose one of three reactions, the third one being the best option for a child.

  1. FLIP OUT – want to kill the bully and threaten the bully’s parent.
  2. IGNORE IT – think bullying is just part of growing up, not a big deal.
  3. FOCUS ON YOUR CHILD AND LISTEN – create a safe space for a child to talk to you about what happened, listen without trying to solve, and do everything you can to get your child help.

 

Educate Your Child About Bullying

Watch Sesame Street’s Good Birds Club

Talk about bullying, how to be a friend, accepting others, being compassionate, and strategies for inclusion. 

Model compassionate behavior yourself.

Visit Lady Gaga's website, Born This Way.

Watch the movie Bully. It's currently unrated due to it's initial "R" rating that the producers didn't like. Read more about the movie on NPR and on Roger Ebert's Journal

Educate Yourself About Bullying

Read Bullying at School and Online from Education.com.

Visit StopBullying.gov which includes the bullying and cyberbullying laws by state.

 

Parents, 

I know many of you have dealt with bullying in your families. What happened? What can you advise other parents?

~ Melissa

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