How to Handle Bullying
Parents commonly ask about the steps they could take to confront and manage bullying behavior and its consequences. To effectively reduce or eliminate a bullying situation, we need to examine the roles of each of the involved children and offer them strategies for coping.
There are three roles in any bullying situation. We generally easily identify the child who is exhibiting bully behavior since they are often being physically aggressive or intimidating, but we also need to examine more subtle forms of bully behavior such as gossiping and excluding others.
The victims are readily identified as the child or children being intimidated, harassed, or aggressed against. There are times when victims are harder to identify due to their hesitancy to speak up for themselves.
Bystanders are those children in a bully situation that observe the interactions and then either discourage or encourage the bullying behavior based on their response to the situation. In order to effectively impact a bullying situation, interventions need to be made within all three roles.
Remember that everyone engages in bully behavior sometimes. Children who use this behavior as their predominant source of social interaction, however, could benefit from practicing basic social skills. Create opportunities for them to feel powerful and effective in pro-social activities. Encourage them to build skills that create a true sense of esteem and varied proud feelings. Teach them to be empathetic towards others. Help them practice apologizing for their behavior in a sincere manner.
Instruct children who are victims of bully behavior to assert themselves, seek help, avoid the problem situations, or use humor to deflect the bullying. Teach victims self-talk to enhance their sense of confidence in handling these tough situations. Encourage bystanders to support the victims with assertive words directed at the bully. Teach them to seek help from adults or a group of peers as appropriate. Remind them that revenge never makes a situation better. Focus on inclusion and create an environment where bully behavior is not acceptable.
Above all, teach children to engage in kind behaviors and reward these behaviors when you see them demonstrated.