The Bully Barrier

Bullying is an important topic that has been more and more spoken about recently as a result of media-highlighted events. Bullying can happen anywhere. As a parent, or even as an adult in a child‘s life at all, it is important to understand what bullying is and how to identify it may be happening to a child. It’s also crucial that adults understand how to handle it.

What is bullying?

Bullying can take many different shapes and forms, and every form is prevalent in a school environment these days.  According to www.stopbullying.gov, bullying is “unwanted, aggressive behavior among children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.”  There are many different kinds of bullies and it is important to identify them.

Physical bullies put their hands on another person. They are physically aggressive to someone and cause harm to one’s body.

Verbal bullies use their words to be aggressive. They call people names, tease someone or spread rumors about them.

Relationship bullies are a little harder to recognize. They may exclude you from their group or make you do things you do not feel comfortable doing just to be liked.

Cyber bullies use the internet to hurt people. They may taunt people, spread rumors, or do things to harm people using words on an internet page that can not be erased.

What are some signs your child might be being bullied?

Many forms of bullying are hard to immediately identify. Your child may not be coming home with bruises, but still can be bullied at school. However, as a parent or caregiver, be aware of some signs you may see in your child if he or she may be getting bullied at school.

  • Frequent “sicknesses” – head aches, stomach aches, body aches, where your child tries to get out of going to school or someplace else.
  • Change in eating habits. Your child may have lost their appetite or your child might be ravenous as soon as he or she gets home.
  • Declining grades or loss of interest in school work.
  • Loss of interest in something your child loved to do – a sport or club outside of school, playing with neighborhood friends.
  • Decreased self-esteem or constant feeling of not being good enough.
  • Becoming increasingly introverted. Your child may not disclose what they normally did or he or she might lash out if you ask about their day.
  • Loss of friends.

There are also warning signs that your child might be doing the bullying. It’s crucial as a parent to be open-minded about both signs of the coin. Ask questions or inquire further if your child exhibits any of the following signs that he or she may be bullying:

  • Is exclusive at school – your child may be very particular about the friends he or she hangs out with for petty reasons.
  • Is very concerned with being popular and frequently discusses it’s importance.
  • Is very aggressive and unpleasant towards others, including you as a parent, when you ask them to stop repeatedly.
  • Is getting into trouble at school, or has a hard time working well with others in a classroom environment .
  • There is violence or unpleasant behavior going on at home. Remember, children are incredibly observant and mimic parent’s behavior often. If there is trouble in your house, it could be your child is mimicking that outside of the home.

What can I do about bullying?

Bullying is real and almost everyone encounters a bully at some point in their life. The most important thing you can do as a parent is talk to your child about bullying.

  • Help your child understand what it is and educate them about the different forms of bullying. Give them examples that can help them understand.
  • Keep the lines of communication open and ask a lot of questions. The more open the relationship is between you and your child, the more apt your child is to tell you when something is going on.
  • Model appropriate behavior in your home. Communicate effectively with your spouse, children, friends and neighbors. Give them positive behavior to pass on to the people in their lives.

Luckily, there are so many great tools on the internet that talk about bullying. They are geared towards children and adults and provide a plethora of facts, cases and ideas that can spark conversation about bullying. Here are some examples:

http://www.stopbullying.gov/has areas on their website for parents, educators, community, teens and kids to help them understand bullying and how they can help.

http://pbskids.org/itsmylife/friends/bullies/is for kids and young adults to learn about bullying in their language. It talks about bully free zones, cyber bullying and how kids can help stop bullying in their school.

http://www.pacerkidsagainstbullying.org/#/homeis a website where kids can pledge against bullying and hear from Hollywood child stars about how bullying hurt them.

This blog was featured on The Rhode Show! Click here to view this episode of The Modern Parent.

Nicole Chiello is the Director of The Children’s Workshop in Smithfield, RI. She recieved a BA in Elementary Education and Psychology from URI. Nicole has been with the team for four years.  Before being a director, she was a school-age coordinator in Warwick, as well as a substitute for the Public Schools. Her favorite thing about working with children is the guarantee that every day is different!