October is National Bullying Prevention Month and awareness of this harmful behavior is on the rise; parents are beginning to realize that it’s not just child’s play, but a serious problem with serious effects. Not to say that the numbers are down, but campaigns against bullying are up, raising awareness for the 1 in 4 students who report being victims of bullying behavior. At GET SAFE, we empower students (victims and bullies,) parents and faculty by providing education and tools, such as the following basic prevention and response tips, to help create a safer, more inclusive school culture.
Bullies often target those who are perceived as “different.” By its very definition, bullying is a form of intimidation, behavior designed to threaten, frighten, or to exert power and control over another person, who is often perceived as “weak,” “different,” or “other.” Bullying may be physical (hitting, kicking, pushing), verbal (taunting, name-calling, threatening), emotional (spreading rumors, manipulating social relationships, extortion), and/or sexual.
While bullying will always be an issue in schools, there are some basic steps you and your little scholar can take to prevent and appropriately react to bullying-behavior.
Here are GET SAFE’s top tips to tackle bullying:
- Do NOT physically fight back. This can be dangerous, and may only make things worse if it leads to retaliation or escalation to weapons. Instead, ask the bully to leave you alone (eh…), walk or run away (better…), and try to avoid them (best!) Also, find a group of positive peers—maybe from after-school activities such as art class, sports, or music—to hang out with.
- Tell a trusted adult. Bullying can sometimes be embarrassing, or you may be afraid of getting in trouble or losing a “friend,” but it’s always best to ask for help. If you don’t feel comfortable telling a parent, tell another adult you trust, such as a close relative, coach or teacher.
Click to download: GET SAFE Bullying Tip Sheet – For Students
- Talk to your kids daily. Ask them what they did before, during, and after-school that day. If you suspect your child is being bullied, ask the deeper level questions: “Who did you play with today?” “What was the best part of your day? The worst?” Have this talk in a relaxed environment; while the subject is serious, the discussion doesn’t have to be.
- Educate yourself on school policy. Does it reward good behavior and embrace diversity? Is there an anonymous reporting system? Do they have a proper rehabilitation program for bullies? Sit down and go over your school’s (after-school program, place of worship, etc.) bullying policy—including consequences—with your child so they know too.
- Problem-Solve, Together. As parents, our first reaction to hearing our child is being bullied might be to go teach that bully (or her parents) a lesson ourselves. But retaliation sends the wrong message to your child. Bullying behavior already leaves its victim feeling powerless, and if you “fix” the problem for your child, it will only dis-empower him or her further. Instead, have your kid brainstorm some solutions, and only offer suggestions if they get stuck. Remember, we always want to try to create independence and confidence in our children.
Click to download: GET SAFE Bullying Tip Sheet – For Parents
Bullying is significantly under-reported and unfortunately not all victims show warning signs. However, the main indicator to watch out for is a change in personality or behavior. If your child is angrier or withdrawn, is asking you to replace “lost” lunch money, or is lashing out at you more than the usual, “Why can’t I eat ice cream for breakfast!?” start in on those deeper-level questions.
Is There a Solution?
No matter what tools you equip your child with or how well-versed you are on school policy—kids are going to be cruel. The best solution is to educate schools, students and parents about our differences; people are scared of the unknown, people are scared of different—so they lash out. Students, parents and faculty/administration all need to work together to create a compassionate, more inclusive school culture. After every GET SAFE Bullying Prevention & Personal Safety training, we ask our students to take the BACKOFF! Buddy Pledge™ to help raise bullying prevention awareness, as well as give the students control and accountability. The pledge states:
“I pledge to use my voice as a BACKOFF! Buddy to take a stand against bullying behavior. If I see someone being bullied, I will go tell an adult I trust. If I am being a bully, or see my friends being bullies, I will stop and remember that everyone has a right to feel safe.”
When we build understanding, we promote acceptance and unity. Remember, people, it takes a village.