Bullying in schools has been making the headlines a lot these days. While there are a variety of places bullying can take place, bullying often starts on the playground, when children are still young.
According to Bully Free Program, bullying starts as early as age 3-4. It’s most likely to occur where there is no adult supervision; where bullying is more tolerated and also where there are no rules against bullying.
There are numerous problems that stem from bullying like: decrease in self esteem, depression, poor learning in school, skipping school, stress, fear, retaliation, lack of trust in adults, shame, higher suicide rates, and the list goes on. Click here for a more complete list of problems caused by bullying.
Personally, I have not dealt with bullies so far. My 4-year-old is well-loved in her classes, but I’m aware of the possibility that she could become a target, due to her sensitive nature and her shyness in some situations. It seems bullies can find almost any reason to tease their peers.
Bullying tends to increase through elementary years and into middle school. Then decreases in high school. That’s what the statistics say, but personally, I wonder if that’s accurate. I think it just looks differently in high school. High schools are filled with stories of “mean girls” (and boys) and news articles about teen suicides stemming from online bullying have surfaced in recent years.
So What can your Child do to Prevent or Stop Bullying?
- Tell a trusted adult
- Avoid being alone if the bullying is physical in nature
- Travel in groups
- Ignore and walk away
- Practice your confidence level
- Talk about it! Tell anyone who will listen. Parents, church leaders, school authorities. Get an adult to listen.
- Don’t retaliate. This never helps and only makes matters worse.
- Practice with your child what to do and say next time the bully approaches
- Help your child practice being assertive
- Explain to your child that the bully just wants a reaction, if the child refuses to engage, walks away or takes a verbal stand, the bully might back down
If bullying is happening on the playground, stick to the most popular play areas. Stay on the swing set the entire time. Play near the teachers. Practice getting stronger by climbing up and down the rock wall or swinging on the monkey bars. Shout really loud to bring attention to any teachers or nearby adults.
The truth is, bullies are weak and cowardly. They pick on other children because they’re scared inside and they need to feel powerful. Teach your child to act with confidence and they’re less likely to get bullied on the playground or anywhere else. Playing on swing sets should be a time when they feel happy and free, not afraid.
If you worry that your child is in danger of becoming bullied or that they are being bullied, but you’re not sure, go to your school administrators. Ask about their anti-bullying policies. Make sure they are in place. If they don’t have anti-bullying policies, ask them to start a policy that will protect children from bullies. Then make sure that the children know about it.
In addition, if you think your child might be a bullying victim, ask their teacher/s to keep a special eye on the child.
Signs of a Bullying Victim Include:
- Decrease in school attendance or skipping certain classes
- Decline in school performance
- Changes in behavior
- Happy on the weekends, but nervous on Sundays
- Wishing to change routes to and from school
- Decline in school performance
- Victim body language: hunches shoulders, lack of eye contact, avoidance
- Fake illness
- Hesitant to play on playground swing sets
- See this full list of signs of bullying
For More Resources on Bullying See:
- National Crime Prevention Council
- National Bullying Prevention Center
- Dealing with Bullying
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Bullying Facts for Families