Parents’ Role in Bullying and Intervention
Behavior Patterns Begin at Home
Behavior patterns begin at home. Teaching your child good communication and social skills at home will go a long way toward his/her success in school. Talk with your child. From the time children learn to talk, parents can have a running conversation with them about how their day went. This makes it natural to continue the custom after the child starts to school. Ask questions about their days. Ask about their friends. Get to know their classmates and friends. Volunteer your services to the classroom whenever possible.
Parents need to be observant of their children’s behavior, appearance, and mood, both for signs of the child being bullied or engaging in bullying behavior. Torn clothes, bruises, loss of appetite, mood changes, reluctance to go to school are all signs that something is wrong. These are all signs that a child is probably being bullied. Many children fall deeper and deeper into depression as a result of long term bullying. Signs that a child is engaging in bullying behavior might be impulsiveness, showing no empathy for others, or a desire to be in control. Children who bully are often arrogant and boastful winners and poor losers when they engage in competitive games.
A child who has bonded well with his/her parents and feels warmth and caring from them is much less likely to resort to bullying behavior with peers in schools and elsewhere. The parents should have also set adequate limits for a child’s behavior at home and not allowed aggression toward siblings, other family members and peers.
Discipline at Home Establishes a Pattern for Interaction with Others
The way a child is disciplined at home will establish a pattern for his/her interaction with other children in school. A parent who disciplines a child with yelling or hitting is teaching a child to react in that manner with other people. Often a child who exhibits bullying behavior in school has been the target of that behavior in the home. Boys who observe their fathers handling disputes with a physical response or girl who observe their mothers practi8cing exclusion or manipulation of friends or family members will likely exhibit the same behavior in school. Although the data shows that both genders can engage in all of these behaviors, it also shows that boys are more likely to bully other boys physically while girls are more like to bully with manipulation and exclusion or with spreading rumors.
Name calling is a favorite form of bullying behavior among some children. Parents need to be particularly aware of the language children hear at home. One mother, in a discussion of the assortment of hurtful words kids use to humiliate others, say, “Oh, faggot is my son’s favorite word. He calls his friends that all the time.” It apparently had never occurred to her to tell her son that this could be hurtful to his friends.
Racial and ethnic slurs and name calling are another favorite form of bullying. Targets of such name calling should be taught to look the perpetrator straight in the eye and say, “I don’t like it when you call me names,” but to go no farther. They should be taught not to get into an argument or to try to change the perpetrator’s mind. It is a waste of time, and prolonging the situation could lead to physical bullying.
Parents Must Monitor Their Own Behavior Too
One of the problems that nearly all schools have to deal with at sometime or another is bullying behavior on the part of a parent. Parents who want to address a problem or any other concern with school personnel should learn how to approach an administrator, classroom teacher, or other school staff. A parent who is angry and threatening school personnel solves nothing and makes life moreild. Further, parents who punish their children for not fighting back physically are adding to their child’s problems. Unfortunately, the parent who engages bullying behavior often exhibits this behavior both toward school personnel and his/her own child.
Self examination would be a wise course for a parent whose child has been accused of bullying behavior. The parent’s first question, before taking any action, might well be, “What have I done to contribute to this situation?”
If you’re a parent concerned about bullying, it’s important to recognize the signs that a child is a bully, as well as the signs of one who is being victimized. This is especially true if your child has a learning disability (LD) or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), conditions which make kids more vulnerable to bullying. Being alert and observant is critical, since victims are often reluctant to report bullying. Many victims don’t report it to their parents or teachers because they’re embarrassed or humiliated by the bullying. They may assume that adults will accuse them of tattling or will tell them to deal with it themselves. Some victims believe there is nothing adults can do to get the bully to stop. Naturally, bullies don’t discuss their misdeeds with their parents or teachers. If their bullying behavior is reported and their parents confront them, bullies usually deny their involvement.
The victim: signs and symptoms
A child who is a victim of bullying may display one or more of the following behaviors at home*:
- Comes home from school with clothing that’s torn or in disarray, or with damaged books.
- Has bruises, cuts, and scratches, but can’t give a logical explanation for how he got them.
- Appears afraid or reluctant to go to school in the morning, complaining repeatedly of headaches or stomach pains.
- Chooses an “illogical” route for going to and from school.
- Has bad dreams or cries in his sleep.
- Loses interest in school work, and his grades suffer. If your child normally struggles in school because of a learning disability and is teased about having LD, school may become unbearable for him.
- Appears sad or depressed, or shows unexpected mood shifts, irritability, and sudden outbursts of temper.
- Requests money from you to meet the bully’s demands and might even resort to stealing money from you or other family members.
- Seems socially isolated, with few — if any — real friends; is rarely invited to parties or to the homes of other kids. His fear of rejection may lead him to shun others.
The bully: signs and symptoms
A youngster who is bullying other kids may display one or more of the following behaviors at home*:
- Has a strong need to dominate and subdue others; asserts himself with power and threats to get his own way.
- Intimidates his siblings or kids in the neighborhood.
- Brags about his actual or imagined superiority over other kids.
- Is hot-tempered, easily angered, impulsive, and has low frustration tolerance. Has difficulty conforming to rules and tolerating adversities and delays. If he has the impulsive/hyperactive type of AD/HD, that could explain some of these behaviors; if so, it’s important to work with his doctor and teachers to address and manage such behaviors.
- Oppositional, defiant, and aggressive behavior toward adults, including teachers and parents.
- Antisocial or criminal behavior (such as stealing or vandalism), often at a relatively early age. He may hang out with the “wrong crowd.”
* Adapted from Bullying at School
What can parents of the victim do?
If you know or suspect your child is being bullied, but his school hasn’t communicated with you about the situation, you should contact your child’s teacher(s) right away. Keep in mind that your primary goal should be to get the school’s cooperation to get the bullying to stop. Knowing your own child is being victimized can evoke strong feelings, but you’ll get much more cooperation from school personnel if you can stick to the facts without becoming overly emotional. While you may want assurance that everyone involved is punished severely, try to focus on putting an end to the bullying!