Bullied children all matter
Bullying is no respecter of any age, race or social class. Bullying scares the daylights out of most parents. And for good reasons too, as bullying can leave a deep psychological damage on children.
Here are 8 tips to help parents identify and prevent bullying:
1. Walk away or ignore- “WITS” strategy
Kids in schools can learn to deal with bullying by using their “WITS” (walk away, ignore, talk it out and seek help). The first two strategies are all about removing yourself from the situation.
“Kids who are intent on bullying often pick kids who are responsive,” says Bonnie Leadbeater, a WITS principal investigator and psychology professor at the University of Victoria. “If you’re walking away to a safer place, you’re not talking back, getting upset or crying. You’re basically saying that being teased doesn’t matter to you.”
According to some research, walking away or ignoring reduces bullying by about 20 percent, and it’s sometimes all that’s needed to end it entirely. In other cases, though, further action is needed.
2. Talk it out
Talking it out can take various forms. Kids can stand up for themselves or someone else, have a mediated conversation with the person who is hurting them or share their feelings with a trusted friend or family member.
If kids feel safe and confident doing so, they can stand up for themselves in the moment by talking back.
However, in the heat of the moment, kids can feel overwhelmed, making it incredibly difficult for them to process and act on what’s happening. Parents can help their kids by role-playing to prepare for such moments or working with teachers to set up mediated conversations between the kids.
Bullying can stop in 10 seconds or less if somebody intervenes, according to some research studies.
Parents can talk it out, too, but it may not always go as planned. If you call the parents of the child who is hurting your child, make sure that you’re in a solid headspace and not angry. You have to be extremely skilled to make those conversations go well. They often end up with an argument between the parents.
Making such calls is only appropriate when your child is in elementary school. After that, it’s best to speak with professionals, such as teachers, coaches and other officers.
3. Act bored
Telling a kid who is bullying that they’re hurting you can sometimes spur them on since that’s exactly what they’re setting out to do. Instead, kids can act bored.
Firmly and clearly tell the bully to stop, then walk away. Practice ways to ignore the hurtful remarks, like acting uninterested or texting someone on your cellphone. By ignoring the bully, you’re showing that you don’t care. Eventually, the bully will probably get bored with trying to bother you.
Unfortunately, not all kids can pull off this tactic successfully. But it does work.
4. Use humour
There’s nothing like laughter to defuse an intense situation, which is why the WITS program encourages kids to use humour to show that they’re not bothered by bullying.
However, it’s important to make the right kind of jokes. Or it will all backfire.
5. Seek help
Kids often can’t handle bullying on their own, so it’s important for them to know that they can ask adults for help. Normalizing help-seeking behaviour is the best thing we can do for kids.
Parents can use Kolari’s CALM (connect, affect, listen and mirror) technique. It basically involves tuning in to your child and letting them set the tone for the conversation. When parents do this, their child’s social skills improve more than half of the time because they’re feeling better from the inside out.
6. Foster friendships
Sometimes kids are bullied because they don’t know how to make friends, but parents can help by teaching them social skills and strategies to join in.
You can role-play at home or host playdates and help guide the activities if necessary. “Friends protect against bullying.”
If your child is being bullied at school, you can enrol them in activities that will allow them to meet peers in other environments. It builds resilience in kids to see themselves in complex ways rather than just as these bullies see them.
7. Find a healthy outlet
Psychologists encourage kids who are being bullied to find a healthy outlet, such as sports, arts or hobbies. In addition to helping them find new friends, it can help them forget about the abuse, feel good about themselves and open up about what’s going on. It can even ensure that they don’t perpetuate bullying themselves—bullied kids often lash out in turn, but having a healthy outlet can redirect their negative energy into something positive.
8. Build up your children’s self-confidence
A child who is encouraged and nurtured is likely to have more self-esteem and confidence. This can reduce the likelihood of them being bullied.
Children who take part in activities they love can also have more confidence. This could be playing an instrument, cooking, playing ball, or dancing. Their success in their chosen hobby will give them a sense of achievement. The expertise they gain will make them feel proud of themselves and help them connect with other children.
Also teach your children to be resilient. Talk about it, watch movies that demonstrate resilience and keep teaching.
6 types of bullying
Knowing the different types of bullying and how each operates will help you as a parent be better equipped to tackle bullying when it happens to your children.
1. Physical bullying
Physical bullying is the most obvious form of bullying. It occurs when kids use physical actions to gain power and control over their targets. Physical bullies tend to be bigger, stronger, and more aggressive than their peers. Examples of physical bullying include kicking, hitting, punching, slapping, shoving, and other physical attacks.
Unlike other forms of bullying, physical bullying is the easiest to identify. As a result, it is most likely what people think of when they think of bullying. But there are more.
2. Verbal bullying
Verbal bullies use words, statements, and name-calling to gain power and belittle their targets. Typically, verbal bullies will use relentless insults to demean, and hurt another person. They choose their targets based on the way they look, act, or behave. It’s also common for verbal bullies to target kids with special needs.
Verbal bullying is often very difficult to identify because attacks almost always occur when adults aren’t around. As a result, it is often one person’s word against another’s. Many adults usually tell the victim of bullying to “ignore it.” But verbal bullying should be taken seriously also.
3. Emotional bullying
Relational aggression is a sneaky and insidious type of bullying that often goes unnoticed by parents and teachers. Sometimes referred to as emotional bullying or social bullying, relational aggression is a type of social manipulation where tweens and teens try to hurt their peers or sabotage their social standing.
Relational bullies often ostracize others from a group, spread rumors, manipulate situations, and break confidences. The goal of a relationally aggressive bully is to increase their own social standing by controlling or bullying another person.
In general, girls tend to use relational aggression more than boys. These girls are often called mean girls or frenemies. A teen on the receiving end of relational aggression is likely to be teased, insulted, ignored, excluded and intimidated.
When a student uses the Internet, a smartphone, or other technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person, it is cyberbullying. If an adult is involved in the harassment, it is called cyber-harassment or cyberstalking.
Examples of cyberbullying include posting hurtful images, making online threats, and sending hurtful emails or texts. Cyberbullying is a growing issue among young people. It’s also becoming more widespread because bullies can harass their targets with much less risk of being caught.
5. Sexual bullying
Sexual bullying consists of repeated, harmful, and humiliating actions that target a person sexually. Examples include sexual name-calling, crude comments, vulgar gestures, uninvited touching, sexual propositioning, and pornographic materials. A bully might make a crude comment about a peer’s appearance, attractiveness, sexual development, or sexual activity.
In extreme cases, sexual bullying opens the door to sexual assault. Girls are often the targets of sexual bullying both by boys and by other girls. Boys might touch them inappropriately, make crude comments about their bodies, or proposition them. Girls might call other girls names like “slut” or “tramp,” make insulting comments about their appearance or body, and engage in slut-shaming.
Sexting also can lead to sexual bullying. If a girl sends a photo of herself to a boyfriend, he may share that photo widely if they break up. She becomes the target of sexual bullying because people make fun of her body, call her crude names, and make vulgar comments about her. Some boys may even see this as an open invitation to proposition her or sexually assault her.
6. Prejudicial bullying
Prejudicial bullying is based on prejudices students have toward people of different races, religions, or sexual orientation. This type of bullying can encompass all the other types of bullying. When prejudicial bullying occurs, kids are targeting others who are different from them or belong to a different social group or even cult.
Though Canada is a country of immigrants, some immigrant children may face prejudiced bullying either because of their race, accent or religion. Oftentimes, this type of bullying is severe and can open the door to hate crimes or physical abuse.
Bullies and future immigrants
In a recent survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, 58% of the immigrants interviewed said they have seen kids bullied, insulted or excluded because of their race or ethnicity, while 14% said they’ve experienced it first-hand.
Canada is expected to welcome over 1.2 million new immigrants over the three years alone. Parents and teachers will need to keep a close eye on the ugly face of bullying.