How to Stop Your Child From Being Bullied
By Dr. Susan Bartell
Dear Dr. Susan,
My 8-year old daughter was crying after school today. She said that in school, kids are making fun of her clothes, and calling her names. She also said that one of the girls tells the others not to be her friend. Is this bullying? And Should I do something about it, or let her fight her own battles.
Yes! This is definitely bullying. Bullying is when one or more children make fun of, tease, gang up on, physically hurt, deliberately leave out, embarrass or in any other way purposefully intimidate or upset another child. Bullying can begin as young as four or five and continue through the college years.
Any child can become the target of the bully. Typically bullies choose children they perceive as vulnerable, but not always. For example, a very ‘popular’ preteen might suddenly find herself the target of another girl, vying for place in the social pecking-order; or a great athlete who has one bad day, might suddenly find himself being teased ruthlessly by a spiteful peer who fancies himself even more skilled, looking to capitalize on the misstep.
If you believe your child is being bullied, it is important to take immediate steps to end it. A bullied child should NOT be left to fight his own battles because it is likely that the bully has intimidated him to the point where he is unable to do so. Your child may ask you not to intervene because he is afraid “this will only make things worse for him”. This is a first sure sign that he is being bullied. Therefore, no matter what he says, you need to help him by making sure that adults-usually school teachers and administrators-stop the bullying.
Below are the steps to take to stop your child from being a victim of bullying:
1. Write down everything your child reports. This is important because it will show your child you are taking her seriously. Tell her that it is important for her to be accurate and truthful-not to make the situation seem different or ‘bigger’ than it actually is. Writing also helps you remember exactly what is happening so you can report it accurately.
2. Call the teacher to discuss the issue. Your first call is investigative-you won’t know for sure that your child is being bullied until the teacher/school psychologist has spoken to all children involved and made an assessment. Take notes of ALL your interactions with everyone.
3. If the teacher doesn’t follow-up with you by the next day, call back. Bullying is NOT something that should be back-burnered. Be clear that you want this investigated immediately. If necessary, make an appointment to meet with an administrator.
4. After receiving confirmation that your child is being bullied, or with continued reports from your child, request a meeting with the school psychologist/social worker and possibly an assistant principal. Your expectation from this meeting is that the school will have a PLAN for how to immediately STOP the bullying. Many schools have zero-tolerance rules for bullying.
5. Follow-up with your child for two or three days to make sure it has stopped. If not, make a phone appointment with the teacher and if necessary, the highest administrator that has been involved in the process thus far. Explain that the plan isn’t working. EXPECT to remain involved throughout the process, following-up continuously until the bullying has stopped.
6. Remember: Your child may ask you not to become involved. However, they are speaking from fear and intimidation-two signs that they are already experiencing emotional trauma from being bullied. It is important that you protect and advocate for your child-no matter how old he may be. In extreme cases, a child needs to move to a different school to get a fresh start. Don’t be adverse to this idea-it could change your child’s life! Of course, before making such a drastic change, it’s important to explore the reasons your child became a target in the first place-it could happen again in any school. Consider professional help before taking such a big step.
7. If your child is in high school, it is more challenging to stop a bully. In some cases, the bullying occurs outside of school. If so, the school may be reluctant to get involved. If the bullying is serious enough, you should consider speaking to your local police precinct about it. It may not warrant official police intervention, but in many cases a visit from a police officer to a teen and his parents is enough to stop an intimidator-he’s been one-upped!
Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally recognized psychologist and award-winning author who has been helping children, teens and families lead healthier, happier lives for over fifteen years. She is the author of four books: Dr. Susan’s Kids-Only Weight Loss Guide: The Parent’s Action Plan for Success; Dr. Susan’s Girls-Only Weight Loss Guide: The Easy, Fun way to Look and Feel Good!, and Stepliving for Teens: Getting Along with Parents, Stepparents, and Siblings; and Mommy or Daddy: Whose Side am I On? You can reach Dr. Susan at her website: www.DrSusanBartell.com.