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Via Kid Power

1. What is bullying?

The most common definition of bullying is, “a repeated oppression, psychological or physical, of a less powerful person by a more powerful person or group of persons.” Bullying is different from aggression between people of equal power. However, someone can have less power than others for many reasons – being shy, being different, lacking confidence, having problems at home, or lacking physical strength.

Bullying takes many different forms including physical threats or violence; name-calling and teasing; ostracism; and social attacks on someone’s reputation. People can bully others directly, in person; indirectly, such as by gossiping or ‘badmouthing’ by voice to others; or through any form of communication technology including talking on the phone, writing, texting, emailing, and recording.  Bullying behavior occurs in schools, sports, youth groups, work places, social groups, senior centers, and online activities. It can occur anywhere people gather, either in the real world or the virtual world. Bullying takes place between people of all ages and walks of life. Young people who are being bullied are especially likely to feel trapped and alone because they usually don’t have a choice about where they live, go to school, or play.

2. How do I talk with the young people in my life about bullying?

Children and teens need consistent, repeated messages from their parents, teachers, principals, and other caring adults that, “We want you to be safe. Being safe means not being afraid that someone will try to harm you. Your job is to speak up if someone is saying or doing something that is harmful to you – and to get help from the adults in charge if that doesn’t work. We also expect you to behave safely and respectfully towards others. This means staying in charge of what you say and do so that you are not being harmful or scary, even if someone really annoys or upsets you. If you have trouble at school or anywhere else, I want you to tell me.”

Build understanding by asking young people to tell you what bullying is and if, when, and how they have seen it happen. Discuss characters in books or movies who bully, witness bullying or are bullied.  Periodically ask,Is there anything you’ve been wondering or worrying about that you haven’t told me?

3.  What should children and teens do if someone tries to bully them?

Give young people opportunities to practice being powerful, respectful, and persistent when using these skills:

  • Using their awareness to notice a problem situation and move out of reach.
  • Telling someone to stop.
  • Asking to join the game or conversation in a friendly, confident way.
  • Leaving and finding someone else to play with.
  • Interrupting busy adults and being persistent in asking for help with a safety problem.

Make sure that children know that most teachers, yard duty supervisors, and other school staff want them to be safe at school and will listen if they understand the problem.

4. What should I do if I am worried that my child is being bullied?

A child who is being bullied is likely to be struggling with loneliness, misery, and despair. Pay attention to warning signals such as your child suddenly not wanting to go to school, acting depressed, or sounding upset about relationships with friends.

Make SURE your child knows that you care and want to help, no matter how busy you are, no matter what mistakes your child might have made, no matter who might be offended, no matter WHAT.  If bullying happens in front of you, intervene even if your child says that he or she doesn’t mind.  If the bullying is happening in places when you are not there such as school, insist that the adults in charge take effective action. Most schools are doing a tremendous job with limited resources and truly care about their students. Your job is to advocate for your child in a way that seeks solutions rather than blame.

If the problem does not get better, consider changing schools or activities. Find positive social groups for your child to be part of. Coach your child to practice the safety skills mentioned above and to apply them to the specific problem. If your child continues to struggle, get professional help.

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