3 Things Parents Can Do to Prevent Bullying

 

In the original Disney film Beauty and the Beast (1) Belle and her father Maurice are pretty much social outcasts. People think Belle is beautiful but strange, and they just laugh at Maurice, the crazy inventor. After returning home from the Beast’s castle, Maurice rushes into the village pub, frantically trying to convince someone to help him. See how the villagers respond in this clip (2):

After promising to help, a few of the men throw Maurice out in the snow, commenting, “Crazy old Maurice! He’s always good for a laugh.”

While the snow in the face probably wasn’t fun, the mocking may have hurt just as much. Poor Maurice had to put up with all sorts of bullying!

Hopefully your kids don’t get thrown in the snow or locked up for being “crazy” like Maurice was, but bullying certainly is a problem today. And unfortunately, this isn’t something that affects just a few kids. According to the 2014-2015 School Crime Supplement, just over 1 in 5 students ages 12-18 has experienced bullying (3).

With bullying affecting so many of our children, what exactly is the problem with bullying today? And what can we do as parents to prevent it?

What’s the problem?

According to stopbullying.gov, “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance” (4). Bullying can be physical, verbal, or emotional, and it can happen in person or online (5). And unfortunately, bullying is usually an ongoing issue.

What’s more, bullying doesn’t come without its costs. Kids who are bullied often suffer from depression and anxiety and start doing worse in school (6).

Clearly, bullying is something that parents should be concerned about. But you may be wondering, “What can I do?” As parents, there are several simple things you can do to help prevent bullying and its negative consequences.  

How can I help?

1. Get educated about bullying

If you want to help protect your child and prevent bullying, perhaps the first step is to get educated yourself. Here are a few places to start:

  • Learn what bullying is. Bullying takes a variety of forms today, including cyberbullying. Learning about what bullying is will help you identify and prevent it.
  • Learn risk factors for bullying. Find out what factors make a child more likely to be bullied or to bully others. This can help you be on the lookout and take preventative steps.
  • Learn the warning signs so you can know if your child is involved in either being bullied or doing the bullying. This is important because “children may not always be vocal about being bullied” (7).

2. Talk to your kids about bullying

Now that you know a little more about bullying yourself, it’s important to share that information with your kids. Here are some things to talk with them about:

  • Let your kids know what bullying is. Help them identify bullying and understand that bullying in any form is not okay.
  • Teach them how to handle it if they’re being bullied. The American Psychological Association suggests helping your child think of people they can go to for help, as well as practicing potential scenarios that will help them cope with bullying (8).
  • Keep the lines of communication open (9). Have regular conversations with your children so they feel they can come to you with their problems. Don’t be afraid to talk about bullying directly, even if you’ve already talked about it in the past.

3. Teach kindness and respect

One of the best ways to combat bullying is to teach our kids the opposite — kindness. Here are some ways you can help them learn:

  • Make your home bully-free (10). Teach your kids how to treat others with respect, starting with their siblings and parents. Set limits and don’t put up with bullying behavior in your home. This will help your kids learn how to treat others and how they can expect to be treated.
  • Encourage positive relationships with peers. Help your kids practice building friendships where they can learn to treat others well and be treated well in return. Having more connections with a variety of peers will also make them less vulnerable to bullying (11).
  • Be kind to your kids. If we want our kids to truly understand what it means to be kind, we have to show them by example. As Dr. Patty O’Grady explains, “Children and adolescents do not learn kindness by only thinking about it and talking about it. Kindness [is] best learned by feeling it” (12).

Put an End to Bullying

We may feel a little sorry for the cartoon character Maurice. But when it comes to our own kids, bullying isn’t just something in the movies. It’s a real issue, and it’s something that needs to be addressed.

But thankfully, we as parents can do something! By learning about bullying, talking with our kids, and teaching kindness, we can do our part to put an end to bullying.

For more information:

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Pictures retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/db/%C5%A0ikanovanie.jpg and https://pixabay.com/en/bully-attack-aggression-bullying-655660/.

References

1. Walt Disney Feature Animation (Producer). (1991). Beauty and the beast [Motion picture]. United States: Walt Disney Pictures.

2. TheDrarryShipper. (2012, January 5). Crazy old Maurice [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQ_SaryharI

3. National Center for Education Statistics. (2016, December). Student reports of bullying: 2015 school crime supplement to the national crime victimization survey. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017015.pdf

4. Bullying definition. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/definition/index.html

5. Bullying prevention. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.childrenssafetynetwork.org/injury-topics/bullying-prevention

6. Effects of bullying. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/effects/index.html

7-8. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Bullying. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/bullying.aspx

9. How to talk about bullying. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.stopbullying.gov/prevention/talking-about-it/index.html

10. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Bullying. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/bullying.aspx

11. Advice for parents and guardians. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://stopbullyingnow.com/advice-for-parents-and-guardians/

12. O’grady, P. (2013, February 17). The positive psychology of kindness. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/positive-psychology-in-the-classroom/201302/the-positive-psychology-kindness

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