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In our previous blog, we looked into why kids bully. Having that insight helps us deal with a situation or know when and where bullying might be happening. In this article we will be tackling how to identify when bullying is happening and once identified what are the next steps to stop it from happening.
The first step to stopping bullying from happening is to know how to spot bullying. It is important to take bullying seriously and not brush it off as something that kids have to tough it out. The impacts can be serious and affect kids’ sense of safety and self-worth.
Most of the time bullying is hard to detect as it happens outside any parent or teacher’s supervision. Look for the following as warning signs to suspect and then start probing into the matter.
Once you suspect bullying, the best way to stop it from happening is to respond quickly. When adults respond quickly it sends a clear message that bullying is unacceptable. Research shows that this helps prevent bullying behavior over time.
A word of caution that it’s essential to isolate bullying from two friends arguing. A rule of thumb is in bullying one of the parties usually doesn’t have a say or doesn’t get a chance to respond. Look for signs where all the teasing is directed at one single student and not so much as a back and forth banter.
Bullying for children and young adults has far reaching consequences. Remember bullying can be prevented when we all act together. That means as adults - parents, teachers, school staff, uncles, aunties etc. we all must acknowledge it and then don’t allow ourselves to be bystanders.
Bullying generally happens in places like school hallways, playgrounds, bathrooms and school buses where there is less adult supervision. So if you are an adult and you hear from a student about any bullying behavior, look into it. Most kids who get bullied do not report because they think, "No one is going to believe me".
If you are a parent and your child shares a bullying experience, first acknowledge the experience. Assess the situation and then accordingly support your child to manage the hurt and get the school staff and/or the other party involved if necessary.
It’s essential to talk to your child about bullying even before they have experienced it. One of the critical ways to stop bullying from happening is to be able to correctly identify it. You as a parent need to empower your child to know when to recognize it.
Talk to them about the different types of bullying - ones that can happen face to face during their playground or recess interactions; ones that happen across the digital platform otherwise known as cyberbullying.
You can choose to have a public area in your house for digital use but your child will get into online interactions outside your supervision. So give them the tools that they can use to tell the difference between bullying and friendly interactions on chat. Talking to your child goes much beyond just sharing information, it allows you to build a trust that goes a long way to keep the channels of communication open in future years.
Helping a child who is a bully is as important as helping one who is being bullied. Teaching your child about social manners is a step towards stopping bullying from happening even before it starts. Teach your child about reading social cues, facial expressions, body language and the power of words. The last one is extremely important when it comes to stopping cyberbullying.
I am of the opinion that there needs to be a separate learning curriculum to teach kids about the social emotional aspects of communicating via the digital platform. More often than not young adults feel it’s okay to use harsh words online because it feels less personal but it is critical to teach them that the person these words are directed to feel hurt.
Research has shown that kids who bully are themselves struggling with self-esteem or are getting bullied somewhere. Look for these cues and provide the support that they need. Make your home a space where bullying is never passed on as ‘harmless kid behavior’. Schools should have rules in place that will clearly show students that no act of bullying shall be tolerated.
Talk to your kids about what to do when they experience bullying. Just like you would give them suggestions of putting on a bandaid or going to the school nurse when they fall down and get hurt, depending on the level of hurt. You should teach your child about what to do when they experience bullying.
Encourage your child not be a bystander if they are not experiencing bullying themselves but are seeing it happen in their presence. They could either raise a voice or get an adult involved to stop it. In milder cases, ask your child to avoid the situation if they can or have someone accompany them to situations where they anticipate that the bully will be present. Things they can do are to take an alternate route, avoid being alone, or sit in the front seats of the bus where the driver can see what’s happening.
It is important to teach your child to not respond back by bullying. Like the saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right. They may try to resolve the situation by speaking up and asking the bullies to stop but definitely report when the initial strategies don’t work.
Remember to teach your kids that it is the right thing to do to report bullying if it happens to either themselves or to their friends. There are ways to get help if you have done everything you can to resolve the situation yourself and nothing has worked, or someone is in danger.
It is important for children and young adults to understand that just like bullying, cyberbullying must be reported. Because of the nature of cyberbullying, much of it gets unnoticed. So when it happens it’s important to document and report the behavior so it can be properly addressed.
Students, parents and teachers need to be a part of the solution. You can work with other parents and school staff to form safety teams and anti-bullying task forces. This is a great opportunity to get students actively involved to participate in these teams. The message will be better received across the student community if their own peers are involved in combating bullying.
Organized groups like these can raise awareness about bullying as well as help prevent it. The advantage of getting everyone, especially students, involved is that they can share about new ways that they see it happen with the changing times and that allows us to prevent it from happening.
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