Bullying in elementary schools has become an epidemic. Kids mistreating each other has become the norm on most playgrounds, so it is crucial that adults teach children the tools to deal with these situations. Whether the child is the perpetrator, the victim or a bystander, there are tips for parents that can help diffuse bullying incidents in elementary schools.
When the child is a victim.
- No parent wants to believe his or her child is being bullied. In the past, this may have meant the child was weak or was doing something to encourage the behavior. That’s simply not the case anymore. Any child can be a victim of bullying. There is no pattern to help parents determine whether or not their child will get bullied because all it takes is one child to start a rumor or decide he doesn’t like another child to initiate bullying. The best thing a parent can teach a child is to tell the bully, “I am not going to allow you to treat me this way” and walk away.
- The next thing that absolutely needs to happen is children need to report bullying behavior to an adult. Psychologist Joel Haber says that most kids do not report bullies to adults because they don’t want to be considered a “tattletale.” Parents must teach their kids that they are not telling on someone to get them in trouble, but rather that they are reporting a behavior that is wrong. It’s no different than seeing somebody break the law and reporting it to the police. Teach kids that they have a responsibility to help keep them and other children safe so if there is a behavior taking place that could be harmful, they should feel good about reporting and stopping the behavior.
- This is a tough pill to swallow. Parents of bullies are generally shocked to hear that their child has been mistreating others. The best advice for parents of bullies is to examine themselves and their behaviors. Children do as their parents do, so if parents are exhibiting such behaviors at home, there is a good chance the child will repeat the behaviors themselves.
- Haber also tells parents to think about the way they treat their own friends. Parents who gossip about others, exclude certain people from activities or spread rumors may think their children are not aware of what’s going on, but children are very observant, especially when it comes to the same sex parent. The best thing a parent can do when finding out their child has been mistreating others at school is to look in the mirror and at their own behaviors. Sit the child down and explain that gossiping is not ok, and be apologetic and honest about having modeled it to the child.
- The other thing parents need to do is examine their own parenting styles. Some parents believe that an authoritarian parenting style is the best for keeping kids in line. However, the “my way or the highway” type of parenting often teaches aggression. Instead, use an authoritative style, which still means the parent is in charge, but it allows for conversations to take place and for the child to have a chance to discuss why he or she doesn’t agree with something. These discussions will teach kids how to work with others successfully.
When the child is a bystander.
- So many kids are on the sidelines of bullying each day so addressing this situation with your child is important. They witness behaviors they know are wrong, yet they are too afraid to get involved. Humanist and child advocate Michael Pritchard tells parents to teach children to be a “defender of self.” Once they are confident enough to stand up for themselves, they will be confident enough to stand up for others as well. There is strength in numbers, and parents should point out to their children that those that protect us on a daily basis (firemen and policemen) work together and stand behind one another. That is the way to prevent bullying in schools as well.