“How many of you have ever felt personally victimized by Regina George?”
Many people will recognize that as a quote from the popular 2004 movie Mean Girls. Mean Girls is based on a book called Queen Bees and Wannabes written by Rosalind Wiseman. The book was mostly the basis for the movie, and discusses how girls form cliques and patterns of aggressive behaviour. Unfortunately, bullying, in both boys and girls, is still a prevalent issue for many people, and with children returning back to school we at Neighbourhood Watch London wanted to help you identify situations of bullying and how to confront it.
How to identify bullying
Bullying is aggressive behaviour that involves an inequality of power and strength. Boys tend to be more physical in their bullying while girls are more prone to social exclusion.
The following video, created by Northern Illinois University, gives great pointers regarding identifying and addressing bullying.
Sometimes it’s hard to spot the signs of bullying, even with your own children. Parents should be vigilant for:
- Ripped clothing
- Hesitation about going to school
- Decreased appetite
- General depression
The difference between conflict and bullying
Some people are hesitant to report incidents of bullying because they aren’t sure if it is bullying or if it is merely conflict. Conflict is two or more people expressing a difference of opinion or views. Each person is comfortable expressing their side and there is no imbalance of power. Conflicts can be either positive or negative depending on how people react to conflict. A negative conflict happens when a person behaves aggressively or says things that are meant to be hurtful.
Bullying happens repeatedly and there is an imbalance of power. Conflict can turn into bullying when the person that has acted aggressively continues on or escalates the situation. The person who is receiving the aggressive conflict may begin to feel less able to express their side and increasingly powerless.
How to tell if your child might be bullying
Look for signs within your own home. Study how your child interacts with friends, siblings, or even yourself. A lack of empathy can be a sign of a bully, especially when they are aggressive or disruptive at home and show a lack of respect for house rules.
Where does bullying typically happen?
Bullying typically takes place in areas of isolation or away from adult supervision. Some examples include:
- Crowded hallways
- School buses
- Social media
Teachers have the ability to be in the vicinity of bullying so they should remain observant. When a teacher witnesses an incident, they should immediately intervene and report the incident. Remember: every incident that is reported will help validate the victim’s story.
Actions to avoid
It is a bad idea to have a joint meeting with the two students. Although this technique can be good for conflict, this can be very embarrassing and intimidating for the bullied student and does not usually have a positive result.
If you discover that your child is being bullied do not tell them to “suck it up” or “let it go”. Remember to validate their feelings and have a conversation to find out the root of the problem. It is usually best to ask open-ended questions to get them talking.
Do not advise that children should fight back. Not only do two wrongs not make a right, but this could escalate the problem and likely won’t end the bullying. Instead, discuss techniques for them to ignore the bullying. Bullies feed off of emotion. Teach your children that the best way to deal with a bully is to not fight back, to not cry, and to not get angry. Help them practice calmly telling the bully to stop or simply walk away. It is more likely that the bully will lose interest.
If your child discloses that they are being bullied or know of someone that is being bullied, do not take away things like their technology to try to remedy the situation. This is seen as a punishment and will make children less likely to come forward. Instead, make a report to the school about the situation.
How to report it
Parents should report bullying to the school. If they receive no response they should follow up with a written letter to the school and have a copy sent to the superintendent. Parents should also report threats of violence to the police and keep records of text messages, emails, or posts on websites.
Reports of bullying should be made to a coach, teacher, parent, and principal.
If your child tells you about another student that is being bullied, make sure to report it. You might be the only adult that now knows about this situation. If your child was in the situation of the victim, you would want another parent to step forward.
How to prevent bullying
Bullying is often a learned behaviour that can be curbed early on. Educate children on the effects of bullying on other people and the consequences of being a bully – both legally and within the home. Make sure that your children are witnessing a positive role model in your relationships with other people and with your children themselves.
Self-esteem issues can also lead to bullying as most bullies will intimidate in order to feel better about themselves. If your child is suffering from a self-esteem issue, try to uplift them and be vigilant for mean behaviour – which should be punished. Make an effort to remember to tell your children when you’re proud of them and what they do that inspires you. It may be awkward, especially if that isn’t your family dynamic, but they will feel so empowered – especially if they roll their eyes!
By following these tips and suggestions you should be able to help empower your children to stand up to bullying!
For more resources on bullying check out Kids Help Phone or call 1-800-668-6868.