BEYOND THE TEXTBOOK
In third grade, I was harassed by one of my fellow classmates. She would push me some days and others she would just snicker and stare. After much tormenting, I finally worked up the nerve to tell my mother, and she advised, “You need to hit her back.”

This advice is what many parents give their bullied children because they lack other effective non-violent solutions. But what other suggestions can you make to your bullied child when you have either watched, been the victim of, or have been the perpetrator of bullying yourself?

Nevertheless, there are effective solutions that parents can use in order to help the bullied child.

Control your emotions and listen to your child

Many children do not admit that they are bullied for fear of parents reacting negatively or dramatically. Therefore, if your child confides in you, remain calm and focus on your child. First, acknowledge his or her courage in telling you. The article “Helping Kids Deal with Bullies,” from the website www.kidshealth.org, advises parents to commend their children for admitting that they have been bullied, and then inform them that they are not the only targets. You may want to talk about how you or another family member went through a similar experience as a child. Emphasize that he or she did nothing to encourage the hurtful acts.

Listen fully to their situation. Don’t cut them off or show big reactions. Remaining calm, but caring, will encourage your child to convey information in the future. After listening, calmly question your child to fully understand the situation. Ask them questions such as, “Who is bullying you?” “When does it occur?” “How long has it been happening?” These answers will be helpful to you when you seek help from others.

Solicit help from others

Next, contact those in charge. For example, if your child is bullied at school, contact the teacher. Calmly relay what your child told you about the situation. Then ask the teacher if he or she has witnessed any of the things mentioned. Do not be surprised if the teacher is unaware of the bullying incidents. The website www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov reports that bullying mostly occurs in places that lack efficient supervision and is often undetected by adults because it includes covert acts, such as “social exclusion, note-passing, and threatening looks.” Therefore, be patient with those supervising the place where bullying occurs. Listen to what the person in charge has to say and allow him or her to suggest possible solutions.

At the end of the conversation, let the person know that you will contact him or her in the immediate future to see how the situation progresses. Also let the person know you will continue to check in with your child to assess the progress of the situation. Then follow through on what you stated. Letting teachers or supervisors know you will keep in contact will at least cause them to become more vigilant of bully behavior. Sometimes all it takes is adults being more observant to stop bullying when it starts.

Help your child make friends

Friends play a key role in reducing the number of bullying incidents. The National Crime Prevention Council encourages kids to stick with friends in order to prevent bullying. Many anti-bullying experts agree that establishing relationships with other kids is one of the best ways to stop and prevent bullying. This makes sense: In situations where an adult is not present, it is helpful to have a friend to defend the victim or help him or her walk away. A child who always plays or sits alone is an easy target for a bully because no one is around to inform an adult.

Therefore, encourage your child to be more social by joining different community, school, or church organizations. Pairing your child up with someone who shares similar interests can create great friendships, now and for life.

For more information on bullying, please visit the websites cited in this article, and search for “bullying.” In my next column, you will learn what to do if your child bullies others.

• China Hill is a curriculum writer for KIPP Ascend Charter School on the West Side.