Tips to help parents take the punch out of bullies

Bullying is a problem for today’s youth and for their parents. Several myths surrounding bullying can actually encourage bullies and discourage those bullied. Most adults encourage children to fight back; however, it is better for children who are bullied to become assertive, not aggressive. Some adults feel bullying is part of growing up. That is a misconception. Don’t ignore bullying—it can be reduced, and there are solutions.

As a parent, what can you do to provide important skills to help your child not be a target of a bully? First, understand that bullying is unfair, as long as someone feels they have been hurt, frightened, threatened or even not included in play. Bullying includes teasing, spreading rumors, stealing, and can include fighting. Bullying often is repeated and seldom is a one-time occurrence. The bully is usually older, bigger, stronger and has friends who support the bullying. Both girls and boys can bully. Boys tend to use more physical and threatening methods, and girls use “behind-the-back” methods more often than physical and verbal attacks.

Children do not often tell their parents they are being bullied. Sometimes, they feel adults could make the bullying worse. Talking and watching a child’s behavior will give parents clues. The answers to the following questions could provide clues to parents:

Do they fear riding the bus?

Are their clothes often damaged?

Are they experiencing sleeplessness or nightmares?

Do they not want to go to school?

Have they lost their enthusiasm for hobbies or friends?

Following are some things parents can do to help their child if they are being bullied:

Let them know that they are not to blame;

Suggest they not fight back; and

Report the bullying to an adult where the bullying occurs.

Certain social skills can help a child by giving them skills that will increase their ability to make friends and increase their own self-respect. Parents can practice with the child on ways to make friends, such as how to start a conversation with other children. Parents can encourage their child by spending 15 minutes a day listening to what they have to say. Ask the child questions like, “If you could share anything with your best friend, what would it be?” or “How do you react when you are picked on at school?”

To get more questions, log on to, or contact Geri Alten, project director for Violence Prevention Collaborative, at 815/720-4261.

From the Jan. 11-17, 2006, issue

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