Most kids have been teased by a friend or a sibling at some point. And it’s not usually harmful when done in a friendly, playful and mutual way, and both kids find it funny. But when teasing becomes constant, hurtful and unkind it crosses the line into bullying and needs to stop.
Bullying is intentional tormenting in verbal, physical or psychological ways. It can range from name-calling, shoving, hitting, threats, and mocking to extorting possessions or money. Some kids bully by spreading rumours about others and shunning them. Others use electronic messaging or social media to taunt others or hurt their feelings.
It’s important to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off as something that kids have to “tough out.” The effects can be serious and affect kids’ sense of self-worth and safety. Most kids and teens say that bullying happens at school. In severe cases, bullying has contributed to tragedies, such as school shootings or suicides.
Here are some smart strategies, you can do at your home, to keep kids from becoming targets, or stop bullying that has already started:
- Carry on and keep calm. If a bully strikes, a kid’s best defence may be to ignore hurtful remarks, tell the bully to stop, remain calm or simply walk away. Bullies thrive on hurting others, so a child who isn’t easily ruffled has a better chance of staying off a bully’s radar.
- Talk about bullying. Talk about it with your kids and have other family members share their experiences. If one of your kids opens up about being bullied, offer unconditional support and praise him or her for being brave enough to discuss it. Consult with the school to learn its policies and find out how teachers and staff can address the situation.
- Remove the bait. If it’s gadgets or lunch money that the school bully is after, you can help neutralize the situation by encouraging your child go to school gadget-free or to pack a lunch.
- Buddy up for safety. Two or more friends standing at their lockers are less likely to be picked on than a child who is all alone. Remind your child to use the buddy system when in the bathroom, on the school bus, or wherever bullies may lurk.
- Don’t try to fight the battle yourself. Talking to a bully’s parents can be, sometimes constructive, but it’s generally best to do so in a setting where a school official, such as a counsellor, can mediate.
Bullying can leave deep emotional scars, it can turn something like going to the bus stop or recess into a nightmare for kids. In extreme situations, bullying can involve property damage, violent threats or someone getting seriously hurt.
If your child is being bullied and you want to act to help stop it, contact Family Kickstart Georgia (FKSG), for advice. In addition, there are ways FKSG to help your child cope with mean gossip, teasing or bullying and lessen its lasting impact. It’s important to discuss it, so your kids will be prepared if it does happen, even if bullying isn’t an issue in your house right now.