It might just be a look. A kick. A “bump” in the hallway. Snickering around the corner. Bullying is often a pretty subtle game, but the consequences can be enormous. Kids who get bullied can become anxious, depressed and lonely. They can feel so powerless, so helpless against kids who want to see them suffer.
Think words can’t hurt the way punches and kicks hurt? Try again. Adults and kids alike have told me how much hurtful words have cut through them. What’s worse is how these words hang around in their minds long after they are spoken. Words can be true weapons for a savvy bully.
So what can you do when you find out your own child has been subjected to this kind of cruelty? You get mad. You get committed to making it stop. You use your own frustration as energy to fight back for your child. I don’t mean that you should be rude to the parents of a bully or to a teacher involved in the situation. I mean that it’s easy to feel defeated before you even get started.
Teachers may be well-meaning but fail to do what’s needed to stop the bullying. Other parents may brush off bullying behaviors as just “kids being kids,” allowing destructive patterns to persist. Your child’s friends and classmates may not come forth with a lot of details because they fear retaliation, or they are actually participating in the bullying. With all this going against your child, you need some energy to keep you pushing through the obstacles.
Perhaps the simplest approach is to find at least one other adult who will commit themselves to advocating and protecting your child. Just knowing that adult is on their side can help a bullied child so much. They know they have a safe haven when things get rough. It can be a favorite teacher, a best friend’s parent, the school janitor, a kind neighbor, or an adult in some other setting like church or a community activity.
All it can take is one good advocate to start making changes. Bullies will take notice if access to a favorite remote corner of the school yard has been fenced off. They’ll think twice when they notice how close their target sits next to the teacher now. Bullies may not know as many potentially embarrassing details about a targeted child because the adults in charge have become more discrete.
If you find that your child is being bullied, stand up and start talking. Once you find advocates for your child, you won’t be alone in the fight.
Readers, share your experiences standing up for your bullied child. I’d especially like to hear how you made progress and who helped you.
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From Psych Central's Alicia Sparks:
How NOT To React To Cyber Bullies: Lessons From Nickelback | Celebrity Psychings (January 25, 2012)
Last reviewed: 13 Oct 2011