by Blake Harris & Michael Hoover
What is Bullying?
Most of us are familiar with the classic examples of childhood bullying: physical abuse, verbal aggression, and cyber intimidation. However, bullying is most likely to occur when there is a lack of adult supervision and as a result we are often unaware when our children are being bullied, or are bullying others. Becoming familiar with the warning signs that indicate the presence of a bullying situation will help parents recognize when their child is in need of assistance. This is important as children often find it difficult to approach their parents or teachers to report bullying due to a fear of humiliation in front of the adult or backlash from the bully.
While the consequences of being bullied will vary from case to case, there are few clear warning signs. Injuries and the loss or destruction of belongings that happen without explanation could be signs that a child is being bullied. However, often the warning signs will not be so easily observable. Radical changes in behavior may indicate that the child is in a troubling situation, and should be taken seriously. These may include, but are not limited to, changes in eating habits, loss of sleep, a decline in success in school and other activities, and an increase in self-destructive behavior such as running away or considering suicide.
Being a victim of bullying is not the only thing parents have to be concerned about with their children. In every instance of childhood bullying, at least half of the children involved are the aggressors. It is just as important for parents to identify in their children the signs of being a bully as it is for them to recognize the signs of being a victim. A few of the most obvious signs include the appearance of unexplained belongings or money, as well as an increased aggression and frequent verbal or physical confrontations with adults and other children. Other warning signs may include signs of bullying from a child’s friends, an increase in reprimands in school or other activities, a tendency to be concerned with reputation, and a failure to take responsibility for their actions.
If the signs and behaviors that indicate involvement in a bullying situation are present, what should happen next? It is very important to remember that regardless of who is being bullied or who the bully is, every child involved must feel supported. Parents should approach the situation without making accusations or placing blame. Allow the children to explain the situation as it appears to them. At this point, depending on if the child is the victim or the aggressor, a different approach must be taken to minimize the impact of the bullying and ensure that it does not continue.
How to deal with children who are victims
When you are dealing with a child who has been the victim of bullying it is important to reinforce that the bullying is in no way the fault of the child. Being bullied does not happen just because a child is weak or different, but is the result of a complicated set of circumstances that can be addressed. The focus of the conversations should include methods for avoiding bullying and a plan for what to do if the situation ever happens again. The parents should evaluate the situation and if necessary contact school teachers or whoever is overseeing the supervision where the bullying is taking place. Parents of the victim should avoid talking to parents of the aggressor whenever possible, especially if they are unfamiliar with them. Remember, there are always two sides of every story and a confrontation between parents is rarely beneficial to the children involved.
What if your child is the bully?
If a parent discovers that their child has been bullying others, it is very important that they remain calm, respectful, and understanding when dealing with this behavior issue. Children who bully are often not just simply being mean, but are acting out to achieve other goals, such as fitting in, or are simply responding to increased stress in their lives, such as trouble in school or problems at home. Discovering these underlying causes is imperative to address in the bullying behaviors and successfully preventing them.
Often, the most frustrating thing about bullying for both parents and children is that it is difficult to predict when and where bullying will occur. While there are certainly certain social characteristics that make children more likely to be the target of bullying, the specifics of the characteristics are quite fluid and vary depending on the environment. However, this does not mean that there is nothing parents can do to help prevent their children from becoming the victim of bullies or from becoming bullies themselves.
The most effective way of discouraging bullying is by increasing the overall physical, mental, and emotional health of the children involved. Parents can begin this process at home by working with their children to improve confidence, increase a sense of respect for both self and for others, and by refining the child’s discipline and self-control. As they get older, parents can involve their children in an extracurricular activity that emphasizes their strengths and encourage them to improve on their weaknesses. The practice of martial arts focuses on all these aspects of childhood health while building teamwork and respect for others.
Bullying has always been part of childhood and will no doubt continue to be an obstacle that must be overcome. However, by recognizing the signs and behavioral indicators of bullying, addressing the problem as soon as possible, and working with both the victims and the bullies to eliminate the behavior and minimize the overall impact, bullying may soon become nothing more than a slight speed bump on the road to a happy adulthood.
Blake Harris & Michael Hoover
Harris Holt Martial Arts