Bullying can take many forms, from physical confrontations in the school halls and playground to harassment on the Internet and cell phones. Most parents are unaware that their child is being bullied until the situation is out of control. Judy Helm Wright, author, parent and life educator, shares her advice on bullying and how to take control of the situation before it takes control over you and your child.
How does bullying usually begin?
Many day care providers and pre-school teachers are telling me that they can see signs of aggression and bullying by age 2 or 3. Most little kids are aggressive at times and will take what they want from another child. Aggressive behavior that goes beyond the ordinary pushing and shoving is unsettling for most parents, teachers and other children. This is the primary time to teach empathy and to intervene in behavior that is not respectful to others.
What can a teenager do if they are being bullied?
As parents we hope that our kids will come to us, but most do not. They are afraid that we will over-react or even worse, do nothing. They are also afraid of retaliation from the bully or peer group if they "snitch" or "narc" on the offender. It is important to convey to them that we have their back and that we will only step in if they ask us to, but we may have suggestions which will help them stop the bullying.
What are the signs that a parent should look for if their child is being bullied?
I have listed a number of ways parents and caring adults will recognize signs of a child who is being bullied in a free report available at CyberBullyingHelp.com. Here are some to watch for:
- They make excuses to avoid going to school or activities
- Experience a sudden, unexplained deterioration in class work
- Appear to have low self-esteem or friendship issues
- Are not sleeping well or wetting the bed
- Appear anxious, insecure, distressed, unhappy, sad, secretive or have mood changes and seem more angry than usual.
What should parents do if they suspect or know their child is being bullied?
Of course, the symptoms listed above can mean a number of different things are occurring in the life of your child. When you observe any of these signals you and your child need to have some open, non-judgmental conversations about what is going on in life. Help them to problem solve.
How can parents help disabled teens set boundaries?
In my book The Left Out Child available at TheLeftOutChild.com, I have listed many suggestions for helping children to see themselves as others see them. Often a disabled child will not understand the subtle non-verbal signals that are so important in peer relationships.
What is the best way for a parent to discuss a bullying problem with school administrators or teachers?
Very carefully and not full of accusations and threats of law-suits. It is important to document that it is on-going bullying, rather than a one-time incident that got carried away. Always ask your child for permission to discuss it with the teacher. Go to the meeting as a partner, not an enemy.
Should parents monitor their teen’s cell phone or computer use?
Yes, computers and cell phones are a privilege, not an expectation. Keep computers in a common living area of the house, so the child knows you can walk by at any time.
What should a parent do if they suspect their own child is a bully?
Once again, it may be a one-time mad day, or it could be an on-going pattern of aggressive behavior. Bullies never grow out it; they just get bigger and more devious. There is a period of teaching empathy where it is easily learned (up to about 8 years old) and then it must be taught by intervention. That means stopping the unacceptable behavior and explaining why it is wrong and not allowed. Parents and teachers do a dis-service to the world to not intervene and teach how to respect everyone, no matter what their situation is.
About Judy Helm Wright
Judy (aka Auntie Artichoke) is a parent educator, family coach, and personal historian who has written more than 20 books, hundreds of articles and speaks internationally on family issues, including care giving. Trained as a ready to learn consultant, she works with Head Start organizations and child care resource centers. She also volunteers time writing end-of-life stories for Hospice.
She and Dwain, her husband of 40 years, have six grown children and seven grandchildren. They consider their greatest success in life that their children like themselves and each other. The honorary title of “Auntie” is given in many cultures to the wise women who guide and mentor others in life.
The artichoke also became a teaching lesson when Judy, with her young family, moved into military housing in California to find Artichokes in their yard. Given that it takes two years for the vegetable to flower, the original gardener never got to see the seeds of her labor. Many times, our actions and reactions in life are felt by people we will never meet, but we plant the seeds of kindness anyway.
The symbol of the artichoke has great meaning in her teaching and writing. As she works with families, she sees frequently only the outer edges are exposed and can be prickly, hard to open and sometimes bitter to the taste. They are closed to new ideas or methods. Many families prefer the known over the unknown, even when the old patterns and skills are not serving them well.
But, as you expose the artichoke and people to warmth, caring, and time, gradually the leaves begin to open and expose the real treasure—the heart.
Learn more about Judy on her website at JudyHWright.com.