11 Apr Dealing with Bullies
We all want to think that our kids have a safe place at school to form healthy relationships that increase their mental well-being and self-confidence. Unfortunately, there are times when your child will spend some time dealing with bullies. What do you do when your child gets bullied or sees other kids get bullied?
Types of Bullying
Bullying can come in different forms and it is always an attack on someone that is perceived to be “weaker”.
Verbal bullying is through intimidation, threats, and enticing fear from others. The bullies will demean or degrade to make the bully dominating and seem powerful. The victims of verbal bullying can be left feeling bad about him or her self, can have less self-esteem, depression, and may have suicidal thoughts. If your child is getting verbally bullied at school, he may have less interest in going to school and he may shut down and withdraw from people. He may have stomachaches or headaches more often and have difficulty concentrating.
Physical bullying is a little easier to detect, and can still be hidden from adults. The bully uses acts of force, threats, intimidation, and may do subtle physical acts at school. Physical bullying often happens on the way to and from school where adults are not around. Physical bullying is less common than verbal bullying (3%-5% for boys and 1%-2% for girls). If your child is getting physically bullied, it is important to take it seriously and get the school involved. Meet with the school social worker, guidance counselor and/or principal in person so they can understand the seriousness of the event and make sure the school keeps the child’s name private so there aren’t further complications with the bully or other students.
Cyber bullying is bullying that takes place over the Internet or on devices, such as cell phones, tablets, gaming systems, and computers. Threats, intimidation, sharing negative posts, harmful or mean content is shared over texts, SMS, apps, gaming systems, or online messaging systems. The information is private and personal and can border on illegal acts. Cyber bullying is the most common way of bullying and has affected about 25% of high school students in the year 2017 (Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, 2017). Cyber bullying often goes undetected because parents and adults do not often see the bullying and the kids often don’t admit to being cyber bullied. It is important to keep a close eye on the social media and other sites your child visits. Help the child learn what is okay to post on the Internet and what isn’t okay and have clear expectations the child should follow.
Relational bullying is another type of bullying that may happen at school and may not be as obvious as some forms of bullying. It may involve excluding kids, spreading rumors, and threatening to end friendships. It can also be combined with cyber bullying. Kids depend on other kids for validation and feel like they belong. When they experience relational bullying or social exclusion, it may have negative affects on their self-esteem and desire to self-regulate. Social exclusion may start as early as pre-school years when a child tells another child they don’t want to be their friend or they don’t allow the child to participate in the game. The good news is that social exclusion doesn’t typically last and gets better when the child finds his or her own identity.
What to do When you are Dealing with Bullies
The bully preys on the kids that show fear and appear less confident. Body language says a lot about confidence level and fear. Keep your head lifted and your eyes straight ahead. Eye contact can be difficult sometimes, so looking just beyond the bully can make it seem like you are looking directly at the bully. If your mouth is trembling, push your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Make sure your arms, shoulders, and hands are relaxed. Pay attention to your breathing and slow it down. You want to look calm and as natural as possible. Don’t talk to the bully, even if you think you have a good comeback. They get pleasure from you engaging with them and thrive on the attention. Pretend they don’t exist.
Never Give a Bully Material Things
They won’t leave you alone and the ante will keep increasing. Don’t invite kids who are mean to you places. This is the same as giving them material things. They are not your friends and they won’t be your friends no matter what you give them.
If the bullying is in the form of cyberbullying, don’t be afraid to block the bully. Not giving the bully a response of any kind and blocking them. This won’t give the bully the satisfaction of engagement. Many of the apps have a way to report cyberbullies.
Tell Your Parents or Another Authority Figure
Even though, it is sometimes difficult for a bully to get caught, telling an adult can be a relief and record that this person is bullying you. Always save the evidence; take a screen shot of what you see.
If Necessary, Get Law Enforcement Involved
If a bully makes a physical threat (threatening to hurt you physically or kill you), then it becomes a criminal behavior and law enforcement needs to be involved. Always tell a parent that this type of abuse is happening. Remember to save the evidence.
Don’t be a Bystander or a Bully
If you see someone getting bullied, don’t just watch. Stand up for the person being bullied. Oftentimes the bully thrives off of bystanders watching and/or joining in. If enough bystanders stand up to the bully, the bully will back down and move on. Don’t engage in retaliation bullying; don’t stoop to the bully’s level.
Here are different websites and resources for parent and/or teens when you are dealing with bullies:
- www.puresight.com Software that blocks cyber-bullying attempts by recognizing phrases, and notifies you as a parent.
- www.spectorsoft.com Software that lets you monitor everything your child does on-line. What they send, receive, and search will be tracked.
Lisa is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who earned her master’s degree from The Ohio State University. She grew up in Libertyville and is thrilled to return to her hometown after 15 years of clinical experience in a variety of settings, including home-based case management, schools, outpatient mental health, and hospitals.
Lisa has provided treatment in clinical settings for children, teens, adults, and families who struggle with depression, anxiety, mood disorders, trauma, stress, gender identity issues, self-esteem issues, impulsivity, defiance, and attention deficits. Lisa has worked in the schools implementing programs and services to individual students and groups to enhance coping skills and academic performance and has worked in crisis teams assessing for suicidality as well as crisis management. She uses CBT, DBT, Solution-focused therapy, play therapy (for younger clients) and EMDR to help her clients and their families reach their goals. Lisa is also trained to work with and assess adolescents for substance use, if this is a concern. She provides a non-judgmental, client-centered environment assisting clients to reach their personal goals of therapy. She believes in utilizing a team effort to help families become empowered and work through stressful times.