The latest research shows that more than half of all children are, at least on occasion, directly involved in bullying as a perpetrator, victim, or both. And many of those who are not directly involved witness others being bullied on a regular basis. No child is immune - kids of every race, gender, grade and socio-economic sector are impacted. But it doesn't have to be this way. As parents we have the power to help reduce bullying. Here are Education.com's top ten actions you can take to help address bullying:
1. Talk with and listen to your kids - everyday.Research shows that parents are often the last to know when their child has bullied or been bullied. You can encourage your children to buck that trend by engaging in frequent conversations about their social lives. Spend a few minutes every day asking open ended questions about who they spend time with at school and in the neighborhood, what they do in between classes and at recess, who they have lunch with, or what happens on the way to and from school. If your children feel comfortable talking to you about their peers before they're involved in a bullying event, they'll be much more likely to get you involved after.
2. Spend time at school and recess.Research shows that 67% of bullying happens when adults are not present. Schools don't have the resources to do it all and need parents' help in reducing bullying. Whether you can volunteer once a week or once a month, you can make a real difference just by being present and helping to organize games and activities that encourage kids to play with new friends. Be sure to coordinate your on-campus volunteer time with your child's teacher and/or principal.
3. Be a good example of kindness and leadership.Your kids learn a lot about power relationships from watching you. When you get angry at a waiter, a sales clerk, another driver on the road, or even your child, you have a great opportunity to model effective communication techniques. Don't blow it by blowing your top! Any time you speak to another person in a mean or abusive way, you're teaching your child that bullying is ok.
4. Learn the signs.
4. Learn the signs.Most children don't tell anyone (especially adults) that they've been bullied. It is therefore important for parents and teachers to learn to recognize possible signs of being victimized such as frequent loss of personal belongings, complaints of headaches or stomachaches, avoiding recess or school activities, getting to school very late or very early. If you suspect that a child might be bullied, talk with the child's teacher or find ways to observe his or her peer interactions to determine whether or not your suspicions might be correct. Talk directly to your child about the situation.
5. Create healthy anti-bullying habits early.
5. Create healthy anti-bullying habits early.Help develop anti-bullying and anti-victimization habits early in your children, as early as kindergarten. Coach your children what not to do - hitting, pushing, teasing, "saying na-na-na-na-na," being mean to others. Help your child to focus on how such actions might feel to the child on the receiving end (e.g., "How do you think you would feel if that happened to you?"). Such strategies can enhance empathy for others. Equally if not more important, teach your children what to do -- kindness, empathy, fair play, and turn-taking are critical skills for good peer relations. Children also need to learn how to say "no" firmly, and how to avoid being mean to others. Coach your child about what to do if other kids are mean - get an adult right away, tell the child who is teasing or bullying to "stop," walk away and ignore the bully. It may help to role play what to do with your child. And repetition helps: go over these techniques periodically with your Kindergarten and early Elementary school aged children.