Although many parents may consider bullying to be, “kids exhibiting normal kids’ behavior,” it is anything but. In today’s society that old rhetoric no longer holds weight as so many of these kids, especially those on the receiving end of a bully’s threats, taunts and physical abuse, have taken their own lives or lashed out at their bully with fatal consequences.
Of course as parents, we all want to believe if our child was being bullied- or was the one exhibiting the unsavory bullying behavior-we’d know, we’d be clued in- but far too often, as parents we are the last to know. In fact according to Robi Ludwig, Psy.D. www.drrobilduwig.com, the reality of our society is that parents are busy and not as plugged into their kids and often the ability to mentor them is simply not there. The fact is our society has moved from a two-family household, where one parent often the mother was home to greet kids after school, and organically learn about the events of their day, to a society where both parents are more often than not working outside the home and far later hours. As a result, these days most parents are getting in less face-time with their kids and when they do get home they’re either too exhausted to talk to their kids- or their pointed questions like; â€˜How was your day?’ are met by their child’s monosyllabic answers.
“You have to get to your kid’s with antiâ€”bullying messages when they’re young, because that’s when they’re most likely listen to you,” says Dr. Robi, who notes it in order to prevent the vicious cycle of bullying, it is also incumbent upon parents to find a way help their kids embrace their psycho, emotional and social intelligence skills early on. “Parents need to make sure they’re getting face-time in with their kids, even if it’s just one night a week get a sense of what’s going on. In fact, sometimes kids just want to hear stories abut their parents’ experiences growing up, and often sharing about your own life can help your kids learn how to handle social situations in their own lives.
Of course notes Dr. Robi, it’s also crucial that parents teach their kids that there is zero tolerance for bullying, and make the clear distinction to their kids that their future is directly linked to the choices they make. So for instance, if their kids want to be successful in the future -be that fame or fortune- their destiny is incumbent on the behavior they exhibit in the present. In other words parents need to directly link bad behavior to a bad future outcome.
Signs your child is being bullied
Dr. Robi says parents should be vigilant for marks on their child’s body, a fear of going to school and if they appear to be isolating themselves a bit more than normal. Sometimes, in order to gauge what is happening, parents may want to broach the topic of bullying in terms of a third party to aid their kids in feeling more comfortable about being forthcoming about the bullying they’re experiencing.
Tips for parents to counteract the bullying
“We need to educate the community, as well as train educational administrators and teachers how to observe and intervene,” says Dr. Robi who stresses that as a community at large we need to take responsibility and have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bullying.
If your child is being bullied you may also want to contact the parent alert them to the situation and use phrases like, â€˜I’m concerned for both of our kids let’s handle this together’ or â€˜this doesn’t mean your child is a bad child and it is my belief that your kid a good kid and can make amends’ and hopefully the parent is wise enough not to dismiss it and say kids wills be kids.”
Tips to handle a situation in which your child is the bully
Of course no parent wants to believe or even admit that their child could in fact be the one who is doing the bullying. Unfortunately the reality is such that, any kid can turn into a bully under certain circumstances.
“As adults it’s our base nature to be aggressive and often kids will be aggressive because frankly it feels good to be sadistic and in their development as they’re attempting to understand how to interact- kids will try on different roles,” says Dr. Robi. “This is why it’s so important to get kids early on and remind them that it’s not okay to hurt someone else.”
Still every bully has parents so just how do you raise your kids so that they are less likely to undertake such a role?
“The best thing you can do, in terms of raising kids, is help them to develop empathic skills and make sure you have a connection with them so that you can pick up on nuances and make interventions in a natural way,” says Dr, Robi. “We need to teach our kids social and emotional intelligence–how to interact with someone so that it’s good for everyone involved -as much as we need to teach math and science.”
If your kid is the bully; give them support- find something they’re good at and help them find a peer group in which they are accepted. It is also important that parent help their kids empathize with what it feels like to be bullied, and that, as parents, we have zero tolerance for bullying. We need to stress to our kids and ourselves, that bullying behavior is not normal- it is not kids will be kids. The moment we make it okay and part of childhood, notes Dr. Robi, we’re doing a disservice to ourselves and our community.
Cyber bullying best practices
When bullying is taken to the cyber-level Dr. Robi believes the most important thing parents can do is to document and every text, email message and facebook update.
“Document the cyber bullying and present it to the parent of the child that’s doing it and if necessary bring it to the community,” says Dr. Robi. “As parents we need to fight bullying with a little fear and smarts and link bullying behavior to the inevitable consequences it will reap both for the bullies and those being bullied. Parents need to scare their kids into reality, with statements like; â€˜Do you not want to get into to the college you want? Do you not want to be on the football team? Keep doing what you’re doing and you won’t get any of those things’.”
Best way to prevent bullying is to stop the cycle before it begins
“The job of a parent is to help socialize their child to be successful in life and not harm others,” says Dr. Robi. “Ultimately parents need to decide this; do they want their kid to live with the guilt of being the one who pushed a kid over the edge to suicide because of bullying behavior?”