Bully Management 101
Being bullied is something that most individuals experience at one time or another while growing up. Many individuals also bully others. In today’s society, bullying has gotten a lot of media attention and schools/parents are somewhat more aware of the significant impact that bullying can have on children and adolescents.
However, despite anyone’s best efforts to stop it from occurring, it still frequently occurs. In addition, with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, online messaging, and other new technologies, cyber bullying has become an issue for many children and adolescents as well. Parents often wonder what they can do to help their child or adolescent when they are being bullied.
Here are a few suggestions:
1) Sit down with your child or adolescent and talk with them about what bullying is. Help them to understand why individuals choose to bully others. Oftentimes, it has to do with the bully’s own issues, which may relate to insecurity about themselves, wanting to fit in, acting out due to issues going on at home, or for other reasons. Helping your child or adolescent to understand the dynamics of bullying can be very helpful.
2) If your child or adolescent is being teased about specific things, talk with them about those specific items and determine why someone may be choosing to make fun of them about the item. For instance, if a seventh grader is being bullied and made fun of for wearing Sponge Bob pants to school, perhaps they are being teased because many seventh graders believe that Sponge Bob is babyish. If your child or adolescent is being teased because of something like this, talk with them and help them decide if they want to continue wearing the pants because they like them, or think maybe they should wear something more grown up. It is important that children and adolescents don’t stop wearing or doing things that they like just to stop being bullied, but evaluating each situation is important to determine if there is something that can be adjusted to stop being bullied about a specific thing. As another example, if a child is being made fun of for raising their hand in the air and constantly waving it around until called on, perhaps the child may want to model the behavior of his classmates in raising his hand to avoid being targeted.
3) If your child or adolescent is being bullied about something that they have no control over or do not wish to change, then helping your child or adolescent to stop bullying in the moment is important. Most instances of bullying occur in part because the bully wants to get a reaction out of the person being bullied. If the child or adolescent denies the bully that satisfaction, they will often stop after repeated attempts fail. If your child or adolescent can convey to the bully that they don’t care, and they are happy with whatever is being made fun of, often times bullies will stop targeting that particular item. For instance, if your adolescent is being teased because his pants are too tight, help him to figure out a way to remain confident in the face of being bullied and walk away without being upset. In this situation, the adolescent could respond: “I like my pants. It may not be how you like to wear your pants, but I like them.” By accepting whatever is being bullied and not getting defensive, it can help diffuse situations of bullying. In order to help your child or adolescent handle situations of bullying, you may want to practice role playing with them.
4) Depending on the severity of the bullying, it is often best, especially for adolescents, to help them to handle the situation themselves first rather than getting involved and calling the school or the bully’s parents. By giving your adolescent the opportunity to handle things themselves, it teaches them skills that they can use to handle situations later on when parents, teachers, or other people in authority may not be present.
5) If your child or adolescent is being bullied physically or has concerns about their physical safety, it is important that you be involved to the extent necessary to ensure that your child or adolescent remains safe. In addition, if the bullying is very severe, or if your child or adolescent has made several unsuccessful attempts to stop the bullying from occurring, it may be important to consider getting involved to assist your child or adolescent. However, it is highly recommended that you consult your child or adolescent and talk with them about it before taking any action yourself.
6) In some cases, children and adolescents would greatly benefit from therapy in order to get assistance with bullying. Often times, children and adolescents develop low self-esteem from repeated bullying, which may benefit greatly from being treated. In addition, a therapist can assist your child or adolescent with practical strategies to handle bullying. Psychotherapy groups that focus on bullying can also be very helpful. Such groups sometimes vary in their approach and what is covered. As an example, I will be running a therapy group in September that focuses on helping adolescents to understand the dynamics behind bullying as well as learn practical skills for dealing with bullies.
7) If your child or adolescent is being bullied via Facebook, Twitter, or through other online social media platforms, make sure they have high privacy settings and encourage them not to retaliate or respond online. Depending on the severity and public nature of what is occurring, talk with your child or adolescent about how they want to handle it, and determine whether you need to reach out to the bully’s parents or the school, if appropriate.
These are just a few suggestions to help your child or adolescent handle bullying. If you know that it is occurring, keep an open dialogue with your child or adolescent and provide support in helping them to cope. Helping them to understand the dynamics of bullying, making sure it is not affecting their self-esteem, and assisting them with tools to handle bullying themselves is important. In addition, if there are significant concerns about safety, it is important to get involved. In some cases, seeking individual therapy for your child/adolescent or a group to cope with bullying can be very useful.
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*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship, and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*