Bullying is a problem – a BIG problem. Now thanks to technology, bullies have even more tools at their disposal to ridicule and torture their classmates. So much so that a new term has been coined to describe the devastating effects of bullying: bullycide.
Bullycide refers to a suicide attributable to bullying, either in person or via social media. Thanks to technology, bullies are able to spread rumors, embarrass, threaten or taunt their victims through many and varied channels, from instant messaging, texting, blogging, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and so on (aka cyber-bullying).
The impact is lasting. As any expert will tell you, the scars from bullying never fully heal. For some victims, the cruelty is too much to handle and instead of fighting, instead of holding their heads high, they choose out, leaving behind families, friends and communities with questions of why. Why did THIS happen?
In the fight against bullying, sometimes as a parent, you get a glimmer of hope that the messages are getting through to kids, that they understand their impact on each other. This is one of those moments when you think kids today stand a chance thanks to a story that started in Anywhere, USA.
Watch the story of Daniel Cui. Share it with your kids, your school, your community and talk about what we can learn from it. Remind your kids that they can do something. Remind them that they can stand up to bullying. Bullying is very much a spectator sport and without a willing audience, bullies are powerless.
October is Anti-Bullying month! Take 5 minutes to share this story and start a conversation within your community about bullying and together we can put a stop to bullying!
Your child was bullied by another child.
And then, you found yourself on the ‘mother’ side of bullying.
The phenomenon of the so called “mean girl” is often associated with relational bullying. While researchers are more heavily focused on the “mean girl” tactics and behavior, stories of her parallel – the “mean mom”, are less told.
Yet, the consequences of relational bullying amongst moms are just as harmful, devastating, and damaging.
Signs of Relational Bullying (aka Mean Mom Syndrome)
#1: You are subject to purposeful rumors and wide spread gossip.
#2: You are being socially excluded.
#3: You are subject to social manipulations that are aimed at ostracizing and isolating you.
Being a parent of a child who has been subjected to bullying behavior is no easy position to be in. It is hard enough on mothers to see their children hurt. It becomes even harder to cope when, as a result of intervening, YOU begin to hurt.
According to Dr. Michele Borba, the decision to confront the bully’s parents may be “a tough ride”: “a bully’s parent usually denies their kid is guilty and may blame your child as well and feel you are criticizing her parenting. Don’t be surprised if you are told to ‘toughen up your kid’ or be shocked if the bully’s parent is a bully herself”.
So what can be done to prevent relational blowback on the (m)other side of bullying?
How to Handle It When Other Moms Refuse to Play Nice
#1: Educate Yourself - How aware are you of the dynamics at play? There is usually much room for increasing your awareness on both sides, as the mother of the victim, or as the mother of the attacker. Check out The Bully, bullied, and the bystander by Barabara Coloroso or When Bullying intensifies by Dr. Michele Borba.
#2: Transcend your Ego – This can be hard to do, but if, one day, you are ‘receiving’ the news (from the school, or directly from the victim’s mother) that your child has engaged in bullying behavior, give yourself some time to let all the feelings settle. Then see if you can put your ego aside (the part of you that is likely to feel triggered – threatened, attacked, or criticized).
#3: Respond Mindfully – Reacting, retaliating, and ripping social connections can be detrimental to any mother’s well being. Resist the temptation to use taunting, gossiping, and passive-aggressive forms of intimidation. Can you shift into a solution-focused mode of resolving, restoring, and repairing?
#4: Model! Model! Model! – We are modeling to our children all the time whether we are conscious of it or not. Whatever strategy you will employ in dealing with the ‘reporting’ mother will model conflict-resolution for your child. Are you taking or deflecting responsibility? Are you being defensive or contemptuous? Are you severing social connections? Pause to think: what conflict messages do you wish to transfer to your child?
#5: Check the Play Field - You may be quick to ‘cut’ the other (child and mother) from your social circle. You were friends, now you are enemies. There was connection, now complete disconnection. Yet often, there is an unexplored field in between this ‘all-or-none’ thinking. Can you feel your pain and the other mother’s pain? Can you learn to have these hard conversations AND still live in community? Can you acknowledge the conflict AND still maintain integrity? Given that mothers and children often share the same play field for years, seek AND solutions in lieu of ‘all-or-none’ ones.
Fostering the egoless approach to restoring and repairing relationships is the core of our work as parents, if we want to live safely and peacefully in our communities.
Want more tips on how to deal with difficult situations? Visit YulitPrice.com!
Think bullying and violence at school isn’t a problem? A recent survey of parents asking about safety concerns at their school shows the need for parents to take a proactive approach to keeping kids safe at school:
70% of parents reported their kids had been bullied – Interestingly, only 18% said the bullying was physical in nature. That means the majority was cyberbullying and verbal bullying (typical of “mean girl” behavior). As parents we can’t assume that bullying is the same as when we were kids.
Cyberbullying has reached epidemic proportions and while it happens online, it doesn’t mean that the school shouldn’t get involved in putting an end to it. Cyberbullying over the weekend spills into school on Monday. Be sure you inform school officials if your child was involved in a cyberbully incident so that they can monitor the situation during the day.
While 65% of the parents brought the bullying to the schools attention, the bullying continued in over 30% of the cases – This is particularly disturbing since both the parents and the child end up frustrated and confused as to where to turn for additional help.
According to the American Justice Department, 75% of school shootings have been linked to bullying and harassment. Continue to push the school for a resolution to a bullying incident and, if necessary, get local law enforcement involved.
A whopping 51% felt only somewhat confident that schools did a good job handling bullying and violence – Schools are working hard to reach out to students by developing programs that deal with bullying directly. Research shows that “zero-tolerance” policies aren’t enough on their own. These policies must be paired with programs that promote a balanced social atmosphere at school.
Such programs should focus on the fact that bullying is not a rite of passage and not acceptable at school. Technology solutions such as surveillance cameras help tremendously in cutting down on bullying. Find out from your school their specific plans on addressing bullying and violence and the safety devices they have in place to help.
After being bullied, the thing that worried parents most were a kid bringing a gun to school and a sexual predator getting in – All of that worry can be put to an end with new technology solutions, like visitor management systems. The system scans a visitor’s identity to confirm who they are and also runs their identity through a national sexual offender database.
There are also notification systems to instantly notify students, parents, and teachers of emergencies and critical information. These notifications will cover school violence, weather-related, or facility issues.
Less than 30% of respondents said their schools doors are locked at all times and only 35% even needed to show a photo ID upon entering the school – If your child’s school does not keep their doors locked at all times or require a photo ID before entering the school, SPEAK UP! There have been way too many incidents that have already occurred.
If the doors are unlocked and no one is checking your photo ID that means anyone can enter, including: predators, non custodial parents, disgruntled former employees, unhappy alumni who hold a grudge against a teacher, or gang members. Test out your schools safety procedures yourself. If you can find a way of getting into the school by bypassing a check-in, then so can anyone else.
We all hear about bullying and the negative impact on kids and their self-confidence, but until it happens to you, it’s difficult to imagine how it feels as a parent knowing your child is the victim and not some abstract story you hear about on the news.
I didn’t think much of it when I picked my 10-year-old up from basketball camp when he was a little quiet because he was bound to be tired from the 9-hour days at camp. When he was still quiet when I gave him the milkshake, I thought something may be going on, wondering if it was more than the exhaustion from non-stop basketball drills were the reason he barely even touched it.
So I asked, “Is there anything you’d like to talk about?” Silence. I knew something was wrong, and in 5-4-3-2-1 seconds, I knew exactly what it was – bullying.
Shedding a tear, he said, “Mom, a lot of guys were taunting me today. It was terrible. They made fun of my jersey, told me my favorite player sucked and then said I sucked because I missed a bunch of shots. Then I got bullied on the court and pushed down. It went on all day.” By then the tears were flowing full stream.
My heart sunk. I wanted to protect my boy. I wanted take away the pain. And, in all honestly, I wanted to yell back at the boys who had bullied my son. But I didn’t do any of that.
Instead, I pulled the car over, looked directly at him and said, “I’m so sorry, Finn. That stinks. Big time. There are so many things I could say to you right now about how to handle yourself. First, though, I think it is more important to let you cry. Get all those feelings of frustration out. Then, I think a big sip of your shake is due. Also, finally, if you want, I’d love to give you a giant hug.” He took advantage of all three, and once he calmed down, we were able to talk.
Bullying is still seen by some as normal behavior that is “not big deal,” and while many cases of bullying do resolve themselves, bullying should not be taken lightly. Overreacting is not a good idea either. It’s important to assess the seriousness of the situation and respond accordingly.
How to STOP the Bullying Without Singling Your Child Out
#1: Keep your feelings in check – As a parent, you want to protect your child at all costs, especially when he or she is hurt. However, your child wants to protect you as well. When you show how upset you are, it adds more charge to the situation.
A parent overreacting can fuel any insecurities or anxieties your child is feeling causing him or her to shut down. Your child can feel like they are to blame for causing you grief. Instead, save those feelings until you are alone, and ask yourself, “What does my child need from me right now?”
#2: Provide a safe space for your child to express his or her feelings – Young people are emotional warehouses. They are filled with happiness, sadness, joy, frustration, calm, anger and so much more. As a parent, let your child know that it is okay to express those emotions.
Give him or her permission to cry or yell or just sit. Releasing those emotions in a safe space allows your child to move through the situation rather than hold it in or ignore it.
#3: Talk it out – Children are often reluctant to talk about being the victim of bullying so it is important to reassure them that talking about it will help and that you care about their well-being. Also, many kids think that telling their parents or teachers about being a victim of bullying will only make it worse so be sure to take positive steps that will not instigate the problem.
Ask your child what he or she has tried to do to stop the bullying and give them other ways to stop it. Give your child permission and suggestions on how to stop bullying themselves: using humor, or just remaining calm will stop bullying. When children react confidently and assert themselves to a bully, he will often stop without adult intervention.
Bullying is not about being right or wrong. It’s about feeling heard. Bullies want to feel heard. And, contrary to popular believe, bullies do not have low esteem. Actually, bullies generally feel good about themselves. They bully others for power.
Encourage your child to understand that just because someone says something about him or her doesn’t make it true. If your child diffuses the situation by shrugging it off or laughing – even if it is at oneself – it shows confidence. Again, the bullying isn’t really about your child. It’s about the bully feeling powerful, and bullies are less likely to feel powerful around those who feel confident.
#4: Continue to support your child in other ways – One of the best self-esteem boosters is to cultivate a habit of gratitude. Realizing your blessing can help to act as a shield against negative responses.
A few good exercises in gratitude include having a gratitude board (use a white board and write your blessings on it each day), a gratitude jar (write down notes of gratitude in a jar and pull them out at dinner), or just sharing what you are grateful for each day at breakfast, dinner or bedtime.
#5: Depending on the severity, report the bullying – If your child is a victim of bullying and it is cruel enough to cause physical, emotional or self-esteem damage, then you and your child should inform your child’s teacher and principal about the situation.
Schools have no tolerance for bullying and if they are aware of what is going on will work with parents and students to create a solution. Confronting the parent of your child’s bully may or may not be a good idea, so talk with the school first.
Sometimes the parents of a child who is bullying others will be unaware of what is going on and will be willing to help. Other times, those parents may deny that there is a problem or not want to help. Children are often afraid that they bully will find out that they told on them and bully them even more severely. While it is a legitimate fear, taking the proper, positive action will usually not result in more bullying.
Thankfully for us, there is a happy ending to our story. The next morning, as my son got ready for his last day of basketball camp, the tears were gone. They had been replaced with a renewed sense of worth.
As he put on a basketball jersey similar to the one he wore yesterday, I asked, “Is that the shirt you are wearing today?” His reply was, “Yep. I don’t really care what these kids think or say. I’m going wear my shirt because I like it. And, if they tease me, I’m going to say ‘Dude, really’ cuz bottom line is I don’t care if they like me because I like me.”
Has your child experienced bullying? What steps did you take to support your child and stop the bullying? Please share your experience in the comments below!
Julie Watson Smith, MHS, is a Leadership Mentor and the founder of Character Clubs, an afterschool program designed to inspire character, confidence and community in kids, ages 3-13. Julie is a vocal advocate for creating a culture of character that helps children learn to lead at home, school and in the world. To start the conversation in your home, check out her workbook, Karmic Acts of Character, designed for families.
Safety First: Learn to Recognize the Warning Signs of Cyber Bullying – How to Know if Your Kids are Victims
Like it or not, our youth of today choose to communicate via the Internet. With Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube within easy and convenient reach through the smartphones that are fast becoming standard issue, cyberspace is taking the bullying to a new level.
Dubbed ‘Cyber Bulling’, countless stories have hit the news of teens who have taken their lives due to malicious treatment by their peers in cyberspace. As Moms, now more than ever we must be aware of the potential dangers involved with all the connectivity.
Cyber Bullying is defined as harmful actions that are communicated via electronic media and are intended to embarrass, harm or slander another individual. Most commonly, it takes place on Facebook and You Tube, with a rise being witnessed in texting, SMS and chat rooms. Within minutes an attack can be spread virally with little to no control over the outcome.
The most prevalent victims are 14 to 17 years of age, but sadly a high number of children in Grade 1 have been reported as victims. The reality is Cyber Bullying is widespread, according to a recent cyber bullying survey, nearly one in five Canadian students surveyed reported having been bullied online in the past three months.
What can result from Cyber Bullying?
• A sense of worthlessness
• Delinquent behavior
• Long term consequences with relationship building
• Suicidal thoughts and even suicide
What are some signs that you can look for in your child?
• Your child unexpectedly stops using their cell phone or computer
• Is hesitant or fearful when an instant message, text message, or email pops up
• Is showing signs of abnormal withdrawal from friends
• Is showing signs of anger, frustration or sadness
• Abnormal sleep patterns
What can you do to prevent Cyber Bullying?
First and foremost, educate your children on appropriate online behaviors.
• NEVER send or posting something when angry
• Do not respond in anger as this is often the response the bully is looking for
• Create open and honest relationship and lines of communication with your children.
• Create a contract with your child for Internet Use and Cell Phone Use.
• Check with your school to see if they have a Bullying Policy, and specifically a Cyber Bullying Policy.
How should you react if your child is a victim of Cyber Bullying?
• NEVER respond in anger, this will only make the situation worse, especially for your child.
• Listen empathetically and very carefully to your child.
• Ensure your child feels safe with you, and has another trusted adult they can turn to if you are not available.
• Gather as much information as you can about the incident and report it to your school and if the situation warrants, police, website administrators, Internet service providers and or cell phone service provider.
What if my child is the Cyber Bully?
If you in any way suspect that your child may be a cyber bully, it is very important to address the problem as soon as possible. You may notice your child quickly closing an application on the computer as you walk by, having their cell phone with them at ALL times and not allowing you to see it, an increased amount of time spend on the internet. Be aware!
If your child is a Cyber Bully:
• Emphasize firmly that Cyber Bullying is a serious problem, and ensure they understand you will NOT tolerate it, with consequences:
o Technologies they are using to harm others will be taken away
o Taking away privileges
o Require them to give back by volunteering for those less fortunate
• Speak with staff at the school and ask for feedback on how your child is interacting
• Find out if your child’s friends are also bullying, and if so – seek guidance from the school principal, counselor and/or counselors.
• Educate your child on the positive results of treating people with respect and kindness.
Join us in building awareness by Standing Up to bullying for National Bullying Awareness Week (November 14th to 20th)!
Her 6-year-old daughter Madeline was bluntly told by her two friends, Hallie and Rachel, that “You can’t be our friend anymore ‘cause you’re 55 pounds and we’re only 45 pounds. 6-years-olds shouldn’t weigh more than 50 pounds. If you are, it means you’re fat…and fat people are ugly.”
“Mommy, why am I fat and ugly?”
Little girls saying the ugliest things to each other in the name of beauty. “Too fat, too short, too flat, too big, too scrawny.”
And yes, it’s more common and happens younger than you would think.
Research tells us that children in pre-K and Kindergarten are already picking up on the “fat is bad” and “thin is good” messages out there. A study reported half of the 3- to 6-year-olds who were interviewed worried about being too fat. Up to 90% of girls between the ages 16 and 21 want to change something about their bodies. Today, it’s more common for girls to diet than NOT to diet making dieting a social norm.
No child should ever feel that she is “worth less” because she weighs more. It’s especially troubling because it’s normal and natural for children to gain weight as they grow. We must teach our girls, regardless of size, how to eat for nourishment and vitality, live for balance, and stay active for health.
Beyond that, does it really matter if they’re not a size zero?
How to Overcome the “Thin is In” Messaging
#1: Teach your children the tricks advertisers play – You may know what airbrushing and digital enhancement is all about but your child may not. Show your child how photos of popular celebrities are altered to make them look “thinner” and more “perfect.”
Discuss what motivates advertisers to do manipulate the truth and the different ways they get their readers to feel, think, or question what they do. Children and teens don’t like to be duped so peel away the curtain.
#2: Show children that everyone comes in different sizes – It’s normal for children to gain weight at different rates and at different times during their childhood. Explain that some children shoot up like weeds and then gain weight while others gain weight and then grow taller.
What’s important is that each child is healthy, strong and active; NOT that each child is at the average or lightest weight for her age group. Of course, if you’re concerned about your child’s weight or weight progression, contact your pediatrician for advice.
#3: Don’t compare – One is tall, the other is short. One is curvy, the other more straight. One is “so thin” the other is…? Especially within families, pointing out that one child is putting on weight faster or is heavier than another sibling can make one feel inferior than the other—even if it’s unintentional.
Given societal messages regarding dieting and thinness, it’s easy for children to interpret seemingly innocuous comparative comments as judgments of a child’s worth.
#4: Watch the media that comes into your house – Would you like your children to have a wider view of beauty? Research shows that media has a large impact on the way children and teens feel about themselves and how they judge others.
If you notice a pattern of media entering your home that celebrates very thin figures or denigrates those who are not thin, talk about it, ask your children what they’re take is on the subject., and see how you can address the problem as it affects your family.
#5: Be aware of your language and behaviors – If you’re hyper-focused on weight and looks, your child will pick up on it. They want to be just like you and they want you to be proud of them. So when a parent bashes herself at the dinner table for eating a treat, makes a rude comment about her own body, or scowls at herself in the mirror, her children may wonder if she thinks the same thing about them.
Even a “compliment” can send an unintentional message. So many times I hear parents saying things like “I wish I had your flat tummy – just look at mine!” to their daughters reinforcing the “Thin is in” as well as a pattern of body bashing within the family culture. Young people follow your lead so be sure to show them what a healthy body image looks like.
#6: Expose them to different activities and people – Whether it’s team sports, individual sports, drama class, art, or community service, activities can provide your children with opportunities to meet different kinds of people and try new things.
After-school programs can expose your children to great role models who challenge them while bringing out their best. Extracurricular and volunteer opportunities can also underscore strengths that have nothing to do with looks and remind children and teens that there are much more important things to focus on then the size of your jeans.
#7: Stress your values – What are your top 5 family values? Discuss them, submerse your family in activities that teach them, and surround your children with people who support them.
Show them that true friends are ones who like you for who you are and not for what you lack, how much you weigh, or how much weight you can lose. While parents often think nobody is listening to them, children absorb what we say and make a lot of choices that reflect family values even when you’re not there.
But most of all encourage your children to embrace their strengths. Help them to develop their assets and stop focusing on deficits. Don’t forget to do this for yourself too! The most powerful example is the one that you provide.
Want more information on helping young girls navigate body image? Pick up a copy of Dr. Robyn’s book “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat”.
You hear a loud thud followed by an ear-piercing scream and your child appears before you with tear-stained cheeks and tells you that another child hit him. What do you do? The mother is busy chatting away to another parent and missed the whole thing.
How to do you handle playground altercations when your child is the victim that leaves everyone involved feeling content and supported?
6 steps to resolving playground altercations when your child is the victim
#1: Comfort your child and if necessary, attend to any first aid. Acknowledge your child’s feelings saying, “You are sad and hurt because you were hit.”
Wait until he is done crying. Keep comforting him until he is fully calm and able to listen to you. Ask him what had happened and what he would like to occur. Remember to stay calm yourself!
#2: Find the other child if she is still present. The first rule of conflict resolution is to speak to the person directly responsible for the negative feelings. That would be the other child, not the parent.
Go to the child and encourage your child to speak about how he feels over what happened and how he would like to resolve it. Maybe he wants his toy back, maybe he wants his turn, or maybe he wants an apology.
Focus on what your child wants, not what the other child did. If you child is too shy to speak, you can do it for him to teach him the words and the tone of what to say.
#3: Find the parent – only if the other child does not respond appropriately. Again, speak in terms of how your child feels or what he wants, not about the other child’s actions.
You could say, “My son was hit by your daughter when she took away his truck. Would it be possible for him to continue his turn with it?”
#4: Follow-up first by allowing the parent will take control of the situation. No matter how the child and parent react to you and your son’s requests, you have three choices:
Persist – Continue to verbally assert your needs, even higher up the chain of command, such as appealing to the teacher or administrative staff.
Flight – Leave the playground for the day. This is a viable option if you just don’t have the energy to deal with the other parent or if an altercation has happened more than once that day.
Redirect– Steer your child to another activity and ignore the other Mom and her child and enjoy your day. Say to yourself and your child, “Oh well, what else can we play with?”
#5: Debrief your child while playing or even on the ride home, asking him how he feels about the outcome and what he could do differently next time.
Debriefing gives him a chance to vent and also to feel in control of his actions, even if he can’t control the other child’s actions.
#6: Focus on your child instead of the other child. Many parents feel that they need to teach the other child a lesson, which is not advisable. Instead have one-on-one snuggle time because your child needs to feel comforted by his parent and shown that his feelings matter.
It gives him the message that even though there are challenging people out there, we feel better by immersing ourselves in people that are good and nurturing to ourselves.
What do you do?
You hear a loud thud followed by an ear-piercing scream, and then another mother appears before you clutching a sobbing child with tear-stained cheeks and red eyes. Your child hit her child and now the mother, child and all eyes on the playground are on you, waiting to see what you are going to do about it.
It’s a parent’s worst nightmare and one that is never covered in the parenting books. How do you handle playground altercations in a manner that leaves everyone feeling validated and teaches your child how to handle anger and frustration in a constructive manner?
How to Handle Rough Play when Your Child is the Hitter
Calming the Situation
#1: Comfort the other child if her parent is not around and if necessary, attend to any first aid.
#2: Ask for her point of view of what happened. If the parent is confronting you, listen carefully without interruption or judgment. Clarify any misunderstandings by asking questions. Validate her feelings even if you don’t agree that the situation happened as she describes to reduce her defensiveness. You could say, “It is very sad to watch your child being hit.”
#3: Say that you need to talk to your child and you will be back.
#4: Give your child the same opportunity to talk and listen without interruption or judgment. Children have an innate sense of fairness and can often tell you what preceded the altercation. Remember that your child will likely be upset too and your job is helping him calm down. Validate his feelings of anger or frustration by repeating the triggering event, “You were angry that she took your truck?”
#5: Return to the other parent and child when everyone is calm, and see if your child is ready to apologize. If his is ready, that’s great, but if he isn’t, don’t force it. It doesn’t matter who is right or who is wrong as most altercations involve fault from both children.
Ideally, both children should apologize to each other, but it rarely happens. You should only be concerned with teaching your child social manners and not the other child. Model apologizing by saying it yourself, “I’m sorry that my son hit your daughter. We will deal with it.”
By apologizing on behalf of your child and giving your assurance that you will follow through with your child, the other parent has her “social bandage”. There is no need to tell her how you will “deal with it”. Modeling an apology shows your child how to make amends, but respects his emotional status by not forcing him to do it when he is clearly not ready.
Following Up with your Child
#6: Do not punish your child! Instead away from the crowd and staring eyes, help him to discover techniques for handling his anger other than hitting. Walking away, breathing, and counting to 10 are all ways to handle anger that even a three-year-old can manage.
Remember that you will need to show them these feeling management techniques many times. Children up to the age of 12 instinctually hit, bite, push and throw things at other children and need many, many practices at handling anger appropriately.
Assure your child of your unconditional love and your expectations that he will make a better choice the next time he is angry at the playground.
Be sure to supervise him closely the next few trips to the playground. Nothing gets a group of parents madder than dealing with a parent who ignores her child’s anti-social behavior in groups of children.
If there is another altercation with the same child or even another child, recognize that your child is having a bad day and go home. Give your child cuddle time and one-on-one attention time because perhaps that is what your child needs most of all.
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