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Serious Business of Bullying

If you are one of the lucky ones with kids who have never been bullied, it can help to be informed and help your child to be aware, prepared, and helpful to those in need. If your kids are directly affected already, here are some tips/thoughts that might be helpful. There are many resources and support groups out there. Seek help and know you are not alone! This is serious business.

Help your child avoid being bullied by teaching him how to cope. Teach your child the “CALM” way to avoid bullies:
Stay Cool if you get picked on, because if you react, the bully wins.
Assert yourself using a comeback skill. For example, use sense of humor, Dr. Borba suggests.
Look the bully in the eye. If you look more confident through your body language, you are less likely to get picked on.
Make your voice sound like you mean it. Don’t whine or pout—instead use a strong voice and turn and walk away.

Dealing with Bullies continues…

What Your Child Can Do

Even though your child may protest, you must tell his or her school about the bullying and work with the school to make sure it’s doing everything possible to protect your child. You can also help your child deal with bullies from the start by telling them to:

Deflect the bullying with humor.
Speak out—say, ‘Stop that. I don’t like it!”
Get friends to help. Ask them to stand up to the bully.

The most important thing for a child to remember is that he or she must tell an adult when the bullying starts. An adult can support and empower the child, and take the power away from the bully.

Teaching Boys to Cope with Feelings

Bullying can cause problems for your child at school—but what if your own son is the bully? Talking to your son about his emotions could be the key to understanding this behavior.

Harvard psychologist Dr. William Pollack, author of Real Boys’ Voices, says boys are desperate to reveal their true feelings. Many boys wear a “mask,” often hiding feelings of sadness, loneliness and vulnerability. Dr. Pollack says that, for many boys, self-worth is tied to their body image. They worry they are not masculine enough.

Parents don’t realize how they teach their boys to bury emotions. Simple phrases like “Big boys don’t cry” create a lifelong effect, according to Dr. Pollack. Many boys feel they can’t express their sadness, so instead they get angry.

Teaching Boys to Cope with Feelings continues…

Expressing Emotions

Dr. Pollack says that the “code” that goes along with being a boy includes traits such as being macho and never weak. Instead of repressing his sad feelings, though, you can encourage your son to express his emotions in a healthy way.

Give your son time for undivided attention and listening space.
Don’t prematurely push him to be independent.
Let him know that “real” boys and men do cry and speak.
Express your love as openly as you would to a girl.

Action Talk

Boys want to discuss their feelings, but they generally express themselves while engaged in another activity, such as fishing or drawing, Dr. Pollack says. He calls this “action talk.”

When you are talking to your son, you should:

Avoid teasing and shaming.
Share your own experiences.
Keep your statements brief.
Don’t press for fast responses.
Really listen when your son finally decides to talk.

Teaching Boys to Cope with Feelings continues…

If Your Son Is a Bully

The majority of schools have a zero-tolerance policy for bullies, but this can often lead to more violence. To help their sons, parents can take steps to find better ways to deal with their feelings.

If your son is a bully, teach him healthy ways to express pain.
Create safe, shame-free zones where your son can go to retreat and talk about his feelings.

Depression and Bullying

According to Dr. Pollack, “bad boys” are often “sad boys,” and bullies are often the most depressed. If you suspect your son might be depressed, watch out for these warning signs:

Increased impulsiveness and depleted mood
Increased withdrawal from relationships and problems in friendships
More angry outbursts and aggression
Increased risk-taking
New or renewed interest in drugs and alcohol

Dealing with Bullies

As kids go back to school after the summer break, they have a lot to think about, from new classes and teachers to extracurricular activities and seeing their friends again. But in addition to the excitement and nervousness of the new school year, some students also have a major fear on their minds—bullies.

Many children worry about not fitting in, especially because of the teasing and bullying that can go along with it. Intimidation and bullying can not only rob your son or daughter of self-confidence, it can become violent. Watch for warning signs that your child is the victim of a bully—and know how to help.

Dealing with Bullies continues…

According to statistics, 160,000 students miss one day of school each year because of bullying. Harvard psychologist Dr. William Pollack, author of Real Boys’ Voices, says boys who are bullied hide their feelings because they fear being humiliated, injured or even killed. Many are afraid of the violence they feel inside themselves and fear talking about it. The majority of schools have a policy of “zero tolerance” for bullies, but this can often lead to more violence.

But boys aren’t the only victims—and they’re not the only bullies. Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out, says girls are just as aggressive as boys, but they act out in much subtler ways. The effect of this “hidden aggression” is devastating to millions of girls but is often invisible to parents.

“Girls have a terrible reputation for being cruel, and there’s a reason why,” Rachel says. “They don’t feel comfortable showing their anger directly. In order to deal with their anger, they go and tell someone else or they do it in a very sly way. They push their feelings down, but invariably their feelings come out in very secretive or indirect ways. So many of them are sitting on that anger. [Girls] do not have the tools to engage in assertive, direct conflict where they can actually say what’s in their hearts to each other.”

Warning Signs

Your child might not tell you if he or she is being bullied at school. Look for these warning signs:

Acts withdrawn
Has unexplained injuries
Clothing is torn
Fears going to school
Has trouble sleeping
Mood changes
Stops talking about school
Finds excuses to miss school
Has new friends
Displays aggressive behavior at home (Sometimes if your child is being bullied, he or she will take it out on a sibling.)

Talking to Your Child

If you see the warning signs that indicate your child might be the victim of a bully, Rachel Simmons says there are ways for you to talk about what’s really going on at school.

Ask trigger questions in the third person. For example, ask your daughter, “How do girls treat each other in school?” or “How do you feel when you’re at school?” Remember, the most important action you can take is to listen to and hold your child.

How You Can Help

If your child is the victim of a bully at school, you should:

Take it seriously—don’t minimize the experience.
Keep an open dialogue with your child about the bullying.
Don’t assume the bullying has stopped if your child stops talking about it.
Give consistent advice.
Bolster your child’s self-esteem in other areas. Help them find an activity where they fit in.
Don’t go it alone. Find other parents whose children are being bullied and organize.
Remind your child what you like about him or her and encourage them to find a group of allies.
Contact your child’s school to report what is going on.

What Not to Do

If your son or daughter admits that they are being bullied, Rachel Simmons says you should:

Never tell them it’s a “normal phase.”
Avoid minimizing their problem.
Never tell them they are being oversensitive.
Never tell them that they are doing something to cause the bullying.
Never tell them that they must be joking

What Your Child Can Do

Even though your child may protest, you must tell his or her school about the bullying and work with the school to make sure it’s doing everything possible to protect your child. You can also help your child deal with bullies from the start by telling them to:

Deflect the bullying with humor.
Speak out—say, ‘Stop that. I don’t like it!”
Get friends to help. Ask them to stand up to the bully.

The most important thing for a child to remember is that he or she must tell an adult when the bullying starts. An adult can support and empower the child, and take the power away from the bully.

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