What parents can do to address/prevent bullying of their children:
1. Watch for signs of bullying such as fear of going to school, lack of friends, missing belongings, torn clothing, increased fearfulness and anxiety.
2. Ask your child directly.
3. Work with the school immediately to make sure your child is safe and there are consequences applied to the bully and that monitoring is adequate. Advocate for involvement of the bully’s parents. If bullying is occurring to and/or from school, make sure your child is accompanied to school.
4. If your child is timid and lacks friends, try to arrange for your child to participate in positive social activities that meet his interests. Consider social skills training for your child.
5. Advocate with the school for a comprehensive anti-bullying program.
What to do if your child is bullying others:
1. Open up communication with your child and school staff. Be prepared for your child to minimize his/her actions.
2. Make clear bullying will not be tolerated even when your child claims it was all in fun.
3. Arrange for an effective, non-hostile, non-violent consequence.
4. Increase supervision of your child.
5. Co-operate with the school in changing your child’s behavior.
6. Praise efforts your child makes towards non-aggressive, responsible behavior.
7. Cutback on your child’s viewing of violent programs, video, computer games.
8. Address violent behavior your child may be witnessing at home.
9. Seek help from a mental health professional.
The most effective approach to bullying is a systemic one, starting with the school and including the parents:
1. A school staff member confronted with a bullying incident should consult with administration, other teachers and staff, to understand the wider context and spread word of the problem. Get feedback about the school environment, board policies, written guidelines concerning bullying. Follow up communication with school personnel and parents until the situation is resolved. Monitor the behavior of the bully and the safety of the victim on a school-wide basis.
2. Prompt interventions with the bully by the school
Expect the bully to minimize and deny actions/responsibility. Refer to codes of conduct to show unacceptable behavior. Tell them what behavior is expected of them. Inform them of non-hostile, non-corporal consequences and that their parents will be informed, if possible, on the same day as the incident. The school should involve parents in designing a creative plan of action, whenever possible. Some schools have had good success with in-school detention situations where aggressive students must complete social skill modules designed to reduce aggressive behavior, develop empathy for others and enhance conflict mediation skills. Refer for family treatment.
Remember that part of the bully`s problem may be lack of parental involvement and aggressive behavior in the family.
On the other hand, if bullies don’t change their behavior in spite of adequate intervention, they, rather than the victim, should be the ones removed from the class or school. This consequence for intractable perpetrators will set the tone at the school for similar situations in the future
3. Interventions with the victim:
Reassure the victim that he/she is not to blame. Keep in mind that bullying occurs only when there is a power differential. Reassure the victim that all possible steps will be taken to prevent a recurrence. Inform the victim’s parents the same day as the incident.
Teachers can aid victims in asserting themselves in class to increase other children`s respect and affection for them.
Involve victims in groups and situations where they can make appropriate friends and develop their social skills. For example, a peer support group, new student orientation group, a co-operative learning group in class to include the less popular, more timid children in small positive and accepting social groups or a special activity group or club. Encourage parents to arrange opportunities outside of school. Offer special instruction in assertiveness skills. What about staff taking turns leading a lunchtime “Anti-bullying Student Organization” to include all kinds of students, but with encouraged participation by socially isolated students and students showing leadership?
4. Because the victim can’t effectively address the bullying on his/her own, the mainstay of an anti-bullying program is enhancing the chances of bullying being reported to school staff and parents by both victim and witnesses. Under normal circumstances, bullying victims do not report having been bullied. They are ashamed of being victims, worried about the retaliation, and don’t trust that they will be adequately protected. It is crucial for school staff to respect the anonymity of the victim and/or reporting students. Otherwise, bullying will go unreported and bullying will thrive.
5. Supervision of playgrounds, hallways, lunchrooms is maintained with staff looking out for instances of bullying. Bullies attempt to keep their acts outside of adults’ awareness. Teachers to intervene in bullying situations and to give a clear message that “Bullying is not acceptable at school.” In elementary school, sometimes a simple action by the teacher communicating that the bullying is unacceptable is enough to stop it.
6. When bullying occurs the response is best immediate. Previously formulated, well-communicated, non- violent consequences for the bully are implemented. The families of both bully and victim are immediately contacted by phone. Separate interviews with both victims and bullies. If a group has done the bullying, each bully should be interviewed separately.
7. The most effective tool for dealing with bullying is to enlist the majority of students who are neither bullies or victims to become involved by reporting bullying, refusing to watch bullying aimed at humiliating the victim in front of others, using distraction with bully or victim, standing up to bullies, and befriending victims.
8. The beginning of a school wide anti-bullying program would be a questionnaire to students, parents, staff regarding bullying at the school.
9. A school conference day devoted to the subject to bring the subject before the entire school community.
10. PTA meetings on bullying to inform the most number of parents.
11. Class meetings regarding bullying. Start with having the class read an age appropriate book on bullying. A discussion of the effects of bullying, brainstorm on rules against bullying, rules with simple wording such as:
No hitting, kicking.
No name calling, put downs.
Include everyone in group activities.
Work to have a friendly class where everyone helps other students if they are bullied.
12. Teachers give generous praise for pro-social/helpful behavior. Recognizing and praising positive, friendly, and supportive behaviors of students toward one another on a frequent basis.
13. Avoid emphasis on competitiveness.
14. Teaching of non-violent, non-racist, and non-sexist ideas, values and behaviors, as a core part of the every-day curriculum.
15. The social climate in the school needs to be one where there is warmth and acceptance of all students, high standards for student and teacher behavior.
16. Social skills training for the bullies and victims.
What doesn’t work: Giving general information alone: Bullies react with two typical reactions: boredom and rage directed at others, with no realization that the presentation is about them.
Instituting school-wide anti-bullying measures, such as extra supervision, vigilance and intervention initially creates more work for school personnel, especially as more incidents of bullying are detected and addressed. However, as time goes by, fewer incidents, less serious incidents occur and the more positive atmosphere of the school makes life easier for all.
In one study in Norway, bullying was reduced by 50% after two years by school wide interventions. Teachers and students also reported improved order and discipline, more positive social relationships, greater student satisfaction, and reduced vandalism.
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