Ways To Help Your Child Deal With A Bully At School
If you have ever had a child who had to deal with a bully at school, or if you were ever faced with a bully, then you know how horrible it can be to just get up in the morning! Bullies are just people too! They are not super powers in the universe, or gods, or demons! Just like you, they are frightened inside and bullying is their coping skill! Ridiculous thought I know, but it is true. You see, I was bullied once upon a time. My child was bullied in school and when the adults in his life didn't react responsibily....he became a bully. That was when I realized how to help him stop those who were making him miserable! They were acting out as a way to get attention, it was a cry for help that had gone unanswered. I hope these steps will help you help yourself and your child deal with the bullies in your life and put an end to the nightmare.
One Step At A Time
You might ask, how do I deal with my child being bullied? What do I do? Where do I begin? First of all, it is important that you actually DO something. Knowing about the bullying and not acting upon it sends a negative message to your child about their value to you. Act. There is a great chance it will increase with time and he/she needs it over now. The bully's power comes from the fact that your child is afraid to stand up to the bullying and make it stop. Each time the bully is successful, it reinforces the bullying behavior and it will not only continue, but it will grow. Ask your child questions that will help them determine a pattern in the behavior. When it is occurring? Every day after lunch? Before school? Where is it occurring? On the playground? On the walk to school? In the locker room? Help your child establish a new routine. It may stop it long enough to figure out the next step! Your child will know which places are most likely to be prone to giving the bully opportunity. It is all about opportunity. If your child can cut off the opportunity, then there will be no place for the behavior.
Second, talk to your child about suggestions on what to do. Has she/he talked to the teachers or school counselor. Most school counselors are responsible for the enactment of the bullying policy along with school principals. Suggest that he/she visit the counselor. IF your child can handle this their own self, then the bullies will be more likely to leave them alone on a long term basis. Teach your child that a bully is all about the bluff. Let me say here that there are the few exceptions that really WILL follow through with their threats, but 99% of bullying is bluff. Teach your child to stand up to the bluff and walk away. If you leave the bully, they have nothing to work with and it will stop. Getting the adults involved will help your child to stand up. They will know that there is someone there, in the building, for them. You can't get there fast enough to count as a support system in your child's mind. Your child will be the one who knows which adults will stand up to the bully. These adults are the ones who need to be told. Allow your child a day or two to handle this step. While they are, send an e-mail to the adults that your child is going to talk to about the bullying. Let them know that you would like your child to initiate contact, but that this is happening and you would like them to help your child make it stop. A paper trail will help to hold the adults accountable and ensure follow through. Realistically, even adults don't like standing up to bullies.
Third, go to the school and talk to the teacher AND the principal yourself. Making more than one adult aware of the behavior makes the adults react more responsibly. For some reason, many bullies have the adults in their lives scared too! If there are two or more adults aware and nothing is done, then they will begin to hold each other accountable. Be polite and let them know you are giving them the opportunity to handle the situation, but let them know you will be checking up on the progress of the situation. Send them an e-mail thanking them for their time while you shared your child's problem with the bully. Name the bully in the e-mail. Again, making a paper trail of documentation that these adults are involved will make them more likely to handle the situation quicker. Sad, but it works. Be sure to include a specific date that you will be following up in person. Give them a few days only. Allowing too much time to lapse will let them think it is not important and will give the bully more power. Let the adults know you will take it to the next level if necessary. Don't threaten, just make them aware that you will follow through if they don't.
- For example: I will come by on Friday, September 23, 2011 to follow up on the bully situation we talked about today. Thank you for helping my child with the bullying. John Doe has created such a difficult time for my child in the locker room and I appreciate your giving it immediate attention. I hope we can settle this within the school system.
Then, if necessary, get law enforcement involved. Heaven forbid that the school does not act upon the situation, but it is possible. My son's teachers did not act at all, much less quickly. I talked to the principal and nothing was done. The bullying intensified immediately. My son was angry and began to bully others himself (teasing). His younger sibling's friend told me one day, accidentally, in conversation. I was livid!! I sat him down and told him I would NOT allow it and I would see to it that he did not behave this way. He boldly looked me square in the eye and said, "you didn't stop John Doe, how are you going to stop me?" I cried. He walked away. The next morning I called in sick to work, walked into the school office before school, in the midst of all the students, told the secretary I wanted to speak with the school police officer, the teacher, the principal AND the school superintendent and I had all day. I was not leaving until I had all of them in one room together. I sat down and waited. Bless her heart, she was startled at best. She knew me and knew I was serious!
Involving the school police officer made ALL the difference!! It was my smartest move! It became a legal issue at that time. If the school failed to act within the bully policy, then the police officer would be legally required to act within the law by taking action. It was amazing how the administrators began to dance. I will interject here that up to this point they believed that it would "all work out in time", "kids will be kids", my son "could handle it", and so on. That was their story any way. I told them nicely that I didn't care. It would stop or "I would hold them all accountable as contributing to the behavior and as participants in the bullying." I told them they had 48 hours and I would file a police report naming them all as participants. I stood, shook their hands and walked out to the hallway where my son stood horrified with his friends. I looked him in the eye and said, quite loudly, "it will stop NOW, or I will stop it myself. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME??" He nodded, said, "yes, ma'am," and I then turned, made eye contact with the bully, and said simply, "now," and walked out to my car. I went straight home and sent an e-mail to every person in that meeting reminding them I would follow up in 48 hours with law enforcement. Evidently it took only 10 minutes for those men to clear the locker room of all the students, locate the object that had been used on my son and suspend the bully. His parents were notified within the hour, by law enforcement, that if there were any further incidents, he would be charged and I was called to report the situation had been handled. Why did it have to go this way? I don't know, but I learned. So did they by the way! I was angry at first because I felt that I had become the bully, but that is not accurate. I held them accountable. They are the ones who chose to only become accountable to the law.
*A footnote to all of this is the bullies learned as well. All of MY children NEVER had another situation of any type in the school system. To this day, it is a source of comment that "the only thing meaner than a Marine is his Mom" is a true statement!
Our situation: my son stepped in and made a bully stop beating a mentally retarded boy in the locker room with a 1" dowel rod by taking the boy's place. He took the daily beatings for the boy. When I accidentally saw the marks, he would not tell me. My younger son's friend told me about the beatings. His older brother had seen it happen. My son would NOT confirm nor deny it. Finally, he said he had told the teacher and nothing was done. The beatings got worse, so he would not do anything about it again. My son was a 280 pound linebacker on the football team. The bully was a 160 pound punk. My son could have turned him into a pretzel. That was not his nature. I talked to the coach and thought it would be solved. When my son began teasing others, I took the actions above. I wish I had done it all sooner. It is my greatest regret in life that I did not keep it in a short timeline. It went on for months. I can only imagine the damage that could have been done. Today, the bully is a useless drug addict. My son is a Marine putting his life on the line to protect his country from wrong and bullies who we now call terrorists. I am so proud of the man he is today.
Bully or Bullied
Have you ever been bullied? Or have you been a bully?
Taking Action Is Its Own Reward
By taking action, you will not only reinforce your child's self esteem, you will teach them that there are tools available to take action when ANYONE bullies them. It may be a husband, or boss, that is the bully later in life. Taking action, creating a paper trail, and following through are the steps to eliminating the bully's power. Any bully. One step at a time and one day at a time. It works and the reward is a life bully free!
Text Copyright 2011 Deborah M. Carey Updated 2015