If you're like most people, you had to deal with a bully at some time during your childhood. Memories of that experience may still be as vivid as though it all happened yesterday. One in ten school children is regularly harassed or attacked by bullies. The experience is often dismissed as just a part of childhood. But it's a serious problem. In fact, one in four children who bully will have a criminal record before the age of 30. Bullies tend to be stronger and bigger than other children their age. Both girls and boys bully. And today's bully--whether a girl or a boy--has a greater capacity for violence than the bullies of our youth. Bullied children lose self-esteem. They feel alone. Their grades may suffer. Even "good" children may turn to violence to protect themselves or to seek revenge.
What can we do to stop bullying?
There's a great deal you as a parent can do:
* Take your child's complaints of bullying seriously. Children are often afraid or ashamed to tell anyone that they have been bullied, so believe your child's complaints.
* Watch for symptoms that your child may be a bullying victim, such as withdrawal, a drop in grades, torn clothes, unexplained bruises, not wanting to go to school, needing extra money or supplies, taking toys or other possessions to school and regularly "losing" them.
* Tell the school immediately if you think that your child is being bullied. Alerted teachers can carefully monitor your children's actions and take other steps to ensure your child's safety.
* Work with other parents to ensure that the children in your neighborhood are supervised closely on their way to and from school.
* Listen. Encourage your child to talk about school, social events, the walk or ride to and from school. Listen to his or her conversations with other children. This could be your first clue to whether your child is a victim, a bully, or neither.
* Don't bully your child yourself. Use nonphysical, consistently enforced discipline measures.
* Teach your child to stand up for himself or herself verbally. Inquire about programs that will boost self-esteem.
* Help your child learn the social skills he or she needs to make friends. A confident, resourceful child who has friends is less likely to be bullied or to bully others.
* Praise your child's kindness toward others. Let your child know that kindness is valued.
* Recognize that bullies may be acting out feelings of insecurity or anger. If you believe that your child may be a bully, help get to the root of the behavior.