By Shay Stinson
No parent wants to hear their child is being bullied. It’s a situation that leaves you feeling helpless and hurting for your child until you are empowered with the right tools to properly combat the situation. As part of October’s Anti-Bullying Awareness Month, we’re sharing a collection of advice from several parents that have faced bullies, including me. After speaking with parents in several peer groups, one thing is common: parents hurt when their children face bullies.
When my child faced a bullying situation in her elementary school, we were both afraid. We were more afraid for her safety because she was alone and without any support at a new school and helpless in an unknown environment. The four girls that were bullying her threatened her with serious bodily harm and caused my child to make drastic decisions, as a fifth-grader, to maintain her safety. She is 21 years old now and she reflects on that situation when mentoring other young girls who experience similar situations.
There is no easy way to face a bully. You can run from the situation and do everything to avoid danger, but eventually, you will have to find the confidence to overpower a bully, particularly mentally. What can a parent do to help their child? In my situation, all I could do was make sure my child knew how to protect herself by avoiding harm. I taught her how to address conflict and we made sure to notify the proper channels. But I couldn’t place myself at school with her and walk her through every step.
Here are a few things I did as a parent. These are steps you can take, as well, to ensure you are empowering your children to face their bullies and gain self-assurance.
- Pay attention to your children’s behavior patterns. When children are facing a bully or displaying bullying behaviors, their normal routines may change enough to indicate they are hiding or running away from a serious situation.
- Be nosy! You don’t have to invade privacy to be a nosy parent. But staying involved and active in your child’s social settings could be a bully deterrent.
- Teach your children social skills and proper peer interaction. Teasing is normal for children at various levels, but you want your child to be fully aware when the teasing has crossed their boundaries.
- Nothing beats a bully like confidence. Bullies like to prey on the weaker person and try to attack when they see vulnerability. Helping your child to build self–esteem and confidence will add to their ability to ignore the bully’s antics. Be as confident as you teach your child to be!
- Open communication is a great tool for fighting bullies. Many situations of bullying go unnoticed for far too long because the person being bullied didn’t have a resource they could openly talk to. Create an environment of open communication so that, as soon as it happens, your child will be ready to notify you.
- Notify the proper channels at your child’s school and other places once you are made aware of any potential bullying situation. It is also good to document that you have made everyone aware in case you need to pursue any matters further.
As parents, we may want to wrap our children up in safety bubbles, so they are always protected and nurtured. But the reality is, the world has a fair share of bullies at almost every corner. We do them a disservice by not allowing them to gain the confidence to beat bullies. You can equip yourself with the parental tools needed to recognize and acknowledge the bully in the room, and your confident child will win!