You’ve made it through the summer and now it’s back to school time. Once children begin to roam the halls of their schools, the parents are faced with a growing problem. How to deal with bullying? Austin Independent School District’s Safe and Drug Free Schools report stated “56 percent of Austin school children were engaged in at least one bullying incident last year. 42 percent of students reported being harassed online.” So how do we deal with this problem?
Even with many schools adopting a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to bullying, if it isn’t reported they can’t do anything about it. When children are in elementary school, it’s easier to deal with. You just contact the teacher and most of the time, problem solved. However, with middle school and high school age children, it’s a more sensitive area.
The first step in confronting this issue is for you and your spouse to decide together how to approach this problem. Providing a united front with your child will give them a sense of security. If you and your spouse offer up conflicting opinions you will only confuse your child further.
You and your spouse need to keep an open line of communication with your children. They need to know they can talk to you about anything. If they are afraid to talk to you, they will struggle not only with this issue but with many others. Get rid of the “no tattling” mindset. There is a big difference between tattling and reporting a bully. However, a lot of children can’t differentiate between the two. It will be difficult for them to talk to you if they are scared they will get in trouble.
Children need positive reinforcement on a daily basis. You and your spouse will play a major role in your child’s development of their self-esteem and self-confidence. Self-confident children may still get bullied, but they will be better equipped to deal with it if it occurs.
If your child comes to you because they are being bullied, don’t overreact. Once your child gets it in their head that “you’ll make a big deal” about it, they will be less apt to confide in you. Even though a parent’s first instinct is to protect our children, in some cases, our children need to learn how to stand up for themselves. Discuss the problem with your child and together work out a plan of action.
You and your spouse need to monitor the situation closely. Should the bullying continue and/or escalate regardless of your child’s attempts at diffusing the situation, you will need to be prepared to intervene. This may require speaking with the other child’s parents, contacting the school or both. Both you and your spouse also need to pay close attention to your child’s internet interactions. When hiding behind their computers, bullies can be even more abusive.
It’s going to take you, your spouse, and your child working together as a team to combat bullying. The most important thing to remember is to love your child and don’t be dismissive when your child’s feelings get hurt. The old saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, no longer applies.
If your child is being bullied and you need help dealing with it, here are a few options available to you. SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere) is a student run organization where children can find ways to cope with many issues. In the Austin area, you can contact the Austin Independent School District, or in Round Rock, the Round Rock Independent School District. For counseling, one option is the Austin Child Guidance Center.
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