Bullying is No Laughing Matter - MetroFamily Magazine
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Bullying is No Laughing Matter

by Kristen Hoyt

Reading Time: 5 minutes 

[Editor’s note: Please welcome Kristen Hoyt to MetroFamily as our new Education columnist!]

Do you worry that your child is being harassed at school? Each year over 160,000 children are victims of bullying—and that’s no laughing matter.

According to stopbullying.gov, bullying is most often defined by:

  • Imbalance of power. The bully intentionally tries to gain the upper hand by picking on persons smaller, less intimidating or weaker.
  • Intent to cause harm. Accidents are not bullying. Bullying is intentional and comes with the desire to cause harm to another person.
  • Repetition. Bullying is intent to do harm that is aimed at the same person over and over.

Bullying is not specific to any gender, age, race or socioeconomic status, and the victims of bullying can have scars that last a lifetime. The Committee for Children reports that, “Children who are bullied are more likely to develop future academic problems and psychological difficulties. Additionally, children who are bullied are more likely to experience low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and insecurity that may continue into adulthood.”

“We moved our four year-old from one preschool to another in the middle of the year due to a bully in his class,” says Oklahoma City mom Heather M. “The teacher and director didn’t see the problem as serious as my husband and I did, so we felt like we had no alternative. Our son is much happier and enjoys going to school now. We made the right decision.”

Bullying comes in many forms. It may be verbal (name-calling or teasing), social (ruining friendships or starting rumors), physical (pushing, hitting or stealing belongings) or cyberbulling (via internet, social media or texting).

David, a father of two girls, says his girls dealt with bullying because of the disproportion of their height and weight. “Kids can be so cruel and say things that are hurtful. We taught our girls to ignore kids who have nothing nice to say and to tell the teacher or other adult. They did just that and the kids who were bullying were dealt with. I just wish more parents would teach their own children tolerance for others like we have done.”

How Do Parents Encourage Bullying in Their Own Children?

Undoubtedly, parents are a child’s first teacher and teaching tolerance, or lack thereof, begins at home. As a teacher, I have seen children repeat the behaviors and actions of their parents. Some of the behaviors to avoid as parents are:

  • Exercising absolute control over the child
  • Threatening the child with spankings or other violence
  • Attempting to humiliate or embarrass the child as a way to punish them
  • Ruling by fear
  • Pushing competition or contests too much
  • Teaching their child that mistakes are unacceptable
  • Telling the child what to say, do or think
  • Gossiping or bad-mouthing others, which shows children that it’s okay to treat people in a duplicitous manner.

What if I Think My Child is a Victim of Bullying?

If you believe your child is a victim of bullying it is important to take measures to ensure his safety and well-being. First and foremost, talk to your child about his day—every day. One of the best places to do this is on the way home from school or at the dinner table. Families that eat dinner together build an emotional bond that is ideal for sharing good times and not-so-good times.

For younger children, using drawings or puppets might elicit important information from your child. Older children might be able to answer direct questions such as:

  • Have any kids in the neighborhood or at school threatened anyone you know?
  • What happens on the playground during recess or before/after school?
  • What happens in the hallways at school?
  • What’s it like at the bus stop or while walking home from school?

Encourage your child to report incidents involving bullying to you. Identify with his feelings of hurt, sadness or anger. Reassure him that reporting the incidents to you is the right decision and assist him in describing the incidents using who, what, where and when.

Though your parental instinct may be to confront the bully, confront his parents or encourage your child to fight back, remember that this will likely only escalate the problem. Instead, use the school resources (teacher, principal, other adults in charge of activities) to stop the bullying. If school personnel do not know, they can’t do anything about it. Work with them to find a solution. Almost all school districts have strict policies against bullying at school or school-related events. Together, identify a plan to avoid bullying and prevent retaliation for reporting.

Teach your child to avoid the bully by playing in a different place, playing a different game or staying near an adult in charge when bullying is likely to take place. Show him/her how to find new friends and invite those new friends to your home. Involve your child in extracurricular activities outside of school.

Lastly, volunteer your time to help supervise on field trips, the lunchroom or on the playground and become an advocate for bullying prevention programs in the schools.

Warning Signs

Worried that your child is being bullied? Watch for the signs. Bullied children often:

  • Lack confidence or appear withdrawn
  • Are easily distressed and anxious, stop eating
  • Attempt or threaten suicide
  • Cry themselves to sleep, have nightmares
  • Have their possessions, including money, go missing
  • Ask for money or start stealing (to pay the bully)
  • Refuse to talk about what’s wrong
  • Begin to act out aggressively, bullying other children or siblings
  • Are suddenly reluctant to walk to and from school or begin to want you to drive them to school
  • Become unwilling to go to school, regularly feel ill in the mornings
  • Begin doing poorly in their school work
  • Come home from school with unexplained cuts or bruises, with clothes or books destroyed or hungry from not eating lunch
  • Give improbable excuses for any of the above

Source: www.kidscape.org.uk/parents/signsof.shtml


www.cfchildren.org—Committee for Children, a global nonprofit that works to prevent bullying, child abuse and violence.
www.pacer.org/bullying—PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center offers digitally-based tools to address bullying through creative, relevant and interactive resources. Resources are designed to benefit all students, including students with disabilities.
www.charactercounts.org/bullying—The Character Counts! approach to bullying creates a school culture in which bullying is not acceptable and not tolerated.
www.commonsensemedia.org—Common Sense Media offers parenting advice on a variety of important topics related to media, including cyberbullying. Parents and student can learn more about the hidden complexities of cyberbullying and find tips for helping students stand up instead of standing by.

Raising a Charismatic Kid

Children’s Life Coach Anthony Recenello believes that the best way to protect your child from becoming a victim is by not treating them like a victim. Through his CharismaticKid website (www.charismatickid.com), Anthony is providing a series of video posts that help parents and children deal with the bullying epidemic.

“We don’t give children enough credit,” says Anthony. “We think bullying is everyone’s problem except for our kids; blaming the schools or the other parent. But what we have to remember as parents is that it is our responsibility to train a confident, charismatic kid.”

Anthony encourages parents to look at the problem of bullying from a new perspective. “The moment you begin blaming other people, you instantly give your child the idea that he is a victim. And victims never win.” Instead, make yourself a team and build your child’s confidence and charisma through every activity you participate in.

Parents may also need to adjust their own confidence and demeanor to best influence children positively. “Your child sees how you interact with the world and takes millions of mental notes. Are you the most confident, friendly, positive yet assertive person you know? If not, make it happen. Bring the funk.”

Lastly, your child’s social circle matters. “The best people you can get your kids acquainted with are the always-positive, assertive, super-passionate kids with a hunger for life.”

Relationships shouldn’t be forced, but making a friend with these qualities will make a big positive impact on your child’s world-view.

“When you and your child are making it a mission to end the bullying in his life, taking full responsibility for how he is treated and for his view of the world, you can raise a happy, charismatic kid”

Though based in New York, Anthony is able to reach kids everywhere though his website, posts and videos, Skype coaching and his book, Let’s Let Kids Do Something Big, available in ebook ($7) or paperpack ($10) through www.charismatickid.com.

Kristen Hoyt, Assistant Professor and Director of Field Experience in the School of Teacher Education at MACU (Mid-American Christian University in OKC), is an avid advocate for quality education in Oklahoma.

If you have a topic about education that you would like to see covered in this column, please email editor@metrofamilymagazine.com.

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