A: As parents we need to understand bullying and what tools we have as parents to help our kids navigate this issue.
Bullying is not bugging.
There is much attention on anti-bullying these days, but it’s important to separate kids being mean or having a conflict from bullying. According to www.ERASEbullying.ca “bullying is a pattern of unwelcome or aggressive behaviour, often with the goal of making others uncomfortable, scared or hurt. It’s almost always used as a way of having control or power over their target, and it is often based on another person’s appearance, culture, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.” Kids are going to be kids, say nasty or inappropriate things, and make social blunders, but it becomes bullying when it is intentional, repetitive and related to gaining power.
The three roles in bullying.
In any bullying scenario, kids take on one of three roles – the bully, the victim or the observer – each facing specific challenges. The bully is trying to gain power in a social situation and sees bullying as his only strategy. The victim is trying to avoid getting hurt again and does not know how to stop it. And the observer is trying to decide how to respond to this uncomfortable situation. How a child responds to these challenges is called resilience.
Donna Volpitta, and Joel Haber (co-authors of The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive--Not Reactive—Parenting) suggest that, kids need to learn how to deal with these challenges in the same way they need to learn to read and write. “Our role as parents/educators is to teach kids strategies to enable them to make good choices that help them resolve a bullying situation successfully. Young children do not have the skills to negotiate complex social situations like bullying gracefully and successfully.”
So, as parents, we can guide our kids to learn social skills like empathy, negotiation, and sharing rather than trying to solve their conflicts for them. We can open discussions with our kids and role play scenarios. We can offer them opportunities to practice working through disagreements with friends, without interfering.
Our principal, Jane Kruks, tells us that bullying is thankfully not a big issue within our school, but she and the staff are also very consciously creating and reinforcing an environment which teaches social responsibility of all members of Blakeburn. I’ve heard her at Bounce acknowledge students who came forward to report unwanted behavior, sending a clear message that it’s not tolerated. This kind of culture encourages everyone to be responsible for upholding Blakeburn’s tenets: Take care of yourself, take care of others, take care of this place.
Have more tips or thoughts to share? Add them to the comments section below.
Erase Bullying (contains resources for parents and children)
Focus on Bullying: A Prevention Program for Elementary School Communities
The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive--Not Reactive—Parenting