Back-to-School Anti-Bullying Strategies
By Courtney Cagle
Going back to school is an exciting (and nervous!) time for both kids and parents. We worry about whether kids will do well in their classes, if they will get along with others, and if they will be friends with “good” kids. And of course, we often worry about bullying–not just face-to-face, but online as well. A recent study showed that more than 20.8% of students say they’re bullied, and even more kids don’t even report the incident (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016).
Here are four steps you can take to help prevent bullying:
- Talk to your children about bullying and help them to understand what it really is. Unfortunately, many children don’t know what bullying is because we’ve gotten used to calling every rude behavior “bullying.” How can a child report they are being bullied if they don’t know what bullying is?
Kids need to have a clear understanding of what it means to be bullied and how to stand up to it. The next section provides question to help you discuss the difference between rude or annoying behavior and actual bullying with your kids.
Bullying can be emotional, verbal, physical, or digital. Explain to your children examples of bullying such as persistent name-calling, spreading rumors, teasing, hitting, writing cruel comments, especially anonymously on social media, or anything that is meant to harm or humiliate others (‘How to Prevent Bullying,’ 2017). (For more guidance on this topic, check out this article: How to Raise a Bully.)
Help your kids understand that they can speak to trusted adults when they are bullied or if they witness others being bullied.
- Have meaningful discussions often (daily if possible). Children will often look to their parents or other trusted adults for advice. It’s important for children to know that they can turn to their parents in times of need and that the line of communication is open. This can be done by having basic conversations with your children about how their day went. It’s all about showing concern and love. It’s also important to talk about bullying with your kids, even if they aren’t being bullied. Here are some sample questions to help get the conversation started:
- What does bullying mean to you?
- What can you do if you see someone being bullied?
- Have you ever encountered a bully?
- What is the difference between someone who is being annoying and rude and someone who is really bullying?
- Have you ever said anything mean to someone and hurt their feelings? What happened? Did anything positive result?
- Have you ever seen something hurtful posted on social media about another person?
It’s important to show that you care and listen to whatever your kids have to say. Plan to sit down with your kids after school, at dinner time, at bedtime, or whenever works best for your family (Lehman).
- Inspire your kids to do what they love. Helping children to participate in various activities, hobbies, or creative interests will help them meet friends. Participating in these meaningful activities will also help them gain skills and confidence which protect them from bullying and often give them the backbone to stand up to bullies. When kids see have a strong group of friends, see their skills improve, and/or have a chance to let their creativity flow, they feel more self-assured and comfortable in their own skin (Lehman).
Remember, although team sports are great, especially in helping our kids to be physically active, there are many other outlets kids should be encouraged to explore such as: dance, music, reading, drawing, pottery, jewelry making, community service, STEM classes, hiking, biking, writing, scouting, etc.
- Be an example by showing them how to treat others with kindness and respect. Children learn far more from your interactions with others than from your words. They are always watching you to see how you handle different situations. If you treat others with kindness and respect, your children will learn how to treat others with kindness and respect. We can teach our kids so much by serving those around us, listening to others, cooking them a meal, or making them a card. Showing our children that we can be kind and respectful to everyone no matter their situation is key (‘How to Prevent Bullying,’ 2017).
We have a responsibility to teach our children how to be kind online as well. When we use the internet, we must show our kids how we are being kind, deliberate digital citizens. When you post something helpful and informative, or text someone a thoughtful note, show your kids! Finally, take time to learn how you and your kids can use technology to be a force for good.
Practicing these steps will help our kids go back to school with confidence and empower them with knowledge. Sometimes, even if you do all that you can as a parent, it still doesn’t prevent the problem, and bullying still happens (‘How to Prevent Bullying,’ 2017). Check out this article, Giving a Voice to Bullying Victims, to better understand types of bullying and how to give your child a voice.
Check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child, to find more ways to prepare your kids for school and for their future. With great lessons about respect, assertiveness, empathy, self-confidence, and more, it’s a great resource for parents teach kids vital life lessons, while also opening the lines of communication. For a free, helpful, family time or classroom lesson on Kindness, Online and Everywhere, go here.
Courtney Cagle is a senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho graduating in Marriage and Family Studies. She loves kids and wants to help create a safe environment for all children to learn and grow.
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Lehman, J. (n.d.). What To Do if Your Child Is Being Bullied. Retrieved April 26, 2018, from https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/is-your-child-being-bullied-9-steps-you-can-take-as-a-parent/
How to Prevent Bullying. (2017, September 08). Retrieved April 26, 2018, from https://www.stopbullying.gov/prevention/index.html
Lessne, D., & Yanez, C. (2016, December 20). Student Reports of Bullying: Results From the 2015 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. Retrieved April 26, 2018, from https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2017015