Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dealing with the parents of a bully

This series of posts explores the roots and provides recommended responses to childhood bullying. Here’s the introduction to the series:

 Dealing with Bullies and Bullying: Introduction

Dealing with the parents of a bully

While the parents of a bullying victim will more than likely learn of the bullying from their son or daughter, there comes a time when speaking with the parent of a bully is necessary. While this can be a daunting and emotionally charged situation, keeping a cool head and approaching the situation with rational understanding is essential.

Work with the school

Since most bullying occurs in and around schools, the school principal is the best person to facilitate conversations between parents. If this is a not a school-related situation, parents of a bullied child need to reach out directly to the parents of the bully.

Be rational. Maintain composure.

Parents should be very careful to not lash out in anger or approach the situation with accusations and ultimatums. As a parent who loves you child, you will probably be upset and defensive, but it is essential that you stay rational and understanding and work to try and find a peaceful way to resolve the issue. Remember, the children are watching you for an example, and how you respond sets the tone for what happens next.

Unresponsive or confrontational parents

If the parents of the bully are confrontational or in denial, you can assume that some mention of the conversation will be made to the bully. If nothing else, the bully now knows that their victim’s parents are involved. If your initial conversation with the bully’s parents goes well you should not hesitate to speak with them again if the bullying occurrences continue. If the conversation does not go well (the other parent may chalk it up to “kids being kids”, harmless, etc.) and the bullying continues, contact your local law enforcement agency and report the bullying as criminal activity.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bullying that won’t stop: What’s the best response?

This series of posts explores the roots and provides recommended responses to childhood bullying. Here’s the introduction to the series:

 Dealing with Bullies and Bullying: Introduction

Bullying that won’t stop: What’s the best response?

If the bully continues to escalate their behavior you should look into keeping the kids away from each other entirely. Sometimes it’s possible to change class schedules, lunch times, etc. Parents should keep in contact with the teacher or principal (or other parents) to ensure that their child is safe. If the problem continues, contact your county sheriff’s office or local police and ask them if you can file a criminal complaint.

Discipline: What works?

Sometimes the bully will not respond to stiffer disciplinary actions such as detention, suspension, work detail, etc. Oftentimes, the bullying intensifies and becomes violent. The revenge factor has to be considered. That’s why it’s very important to continually monitor the situation before it spirals out of control.

Violence and bullying

If a bully becomes violent (shoving, striking, kicking etc.) we strongly suggest involving the local authorities. Having records and a case number on file will help your child in the long run if the abuse continues. If a child lashes out in anger at the bully, the bully may retaliate with even greater force.

Proper reaction and self defense

If the child is being bullied and senses that they are in imminent danger, they should do their best to escape and run for help. The only time they should confront the aggressor with violence is if they are backed into a corner and can see no other possible means of escape. Remember, if the bully is humiliated (especially in front of their peers) they most likely will retaliate.

Should I encourage my child to fight back?

What about death match in the octagon? In all seriousness, we should never encourage children to fight. Effective martial arts-based self defense should only be used as a last resort. Kids should be taught that appropriate personal protection measures should be taken only if there are no other options and they know that they can’t talk, walk or run away from a violent encounter. Avoiding, even running from the bully is always the best course of action.

This is the concept of Winning Through Losing, stay tuned for more on the subject.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bullying: What is the school’s responsibility?

This series of posts explores the roots and provides recommended responses to childhood bullying. Here’s the introduction to the series:

 Dealing with Bullies and Bullying: Introduction

In helping parents and students navigate the challenges of bullies and bullying, I’m often asked what the school’s responsibility is as it relates to bullying. Since kids are in and around school a majority of their waking hours, it’s only natural that this is the most common place to deal with bullies.

Schools and bullying

The school is responsible for the safety of your child for as long as they are in the care of the school (this includes the school bus). Because of the events at Thurston High, Columbine High, Virginia Tech and others, today’s schools take bullying and threats very seriously. Many schools have adopted a zero-tolerance policy (meaning a bully may receive as little as one warning and then face expulsion).

Talking to school officials

Whether talking to school officials or the parents of bullies, the same advice applies. Approach the issue with a calm, but firm and specific complaint. Do not use accusations or make threats. You’re much more likely to get cooperation of school officials and administrators by trying to resolve the issue rationally.

When to escalate the issue to the proper authorities

If you are not satisfied with the solutions or redress offered by the school, you can always bring the issue to the attention of the local authorities. A quick online search will provide several examples of parents taking legal action as well as several very public examples of parents acting both properly and improperly in response to bullying of their child.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How should adults respond to bullying?

This series of posts explores the roots and provides recommended responses to childhood bullying. Here’s the introduction to the series:

 Dealing with Bullies and Bullying: Introduction

With bullying on the rise in our schools, it’s more important than ever for kids and parents to understand the underlying causes of bullying and bullies.

Step #1: Listen

When a parent or teacher first learns that a child is a victim of bullying, their first inclination is to ask if the child did anything to bring on this unwanted attention (teasing, wise cracks etc.). This may not be the ideal response. Adults (including parents, teachers, and school administrators) should take care to listen to the child who is reporting the bullying. If a child is describing being bullied, don’t take the position of, “it’s just kids being kids”. Bullying is assault, and its effects should not be taken lightly.

Step #2: Take Action

Determine when and where the bullying is taking place and speak to the adult in charge of that particular place (cafeteria monitor, bus driver, teacher). Ask them to closely monitor the behavior and interaction of the kids involved. If the harassment continues, most schools have disciplinary actions in place to deal with the situation. If the bullying is taking place at an individual’s home (friend, relative, neighbor) the adults should try to get together for a heart to heart talk and determine a solution to the problem.

Step #3: Monitor

After talking with the bully, the adults (parents, teachers, etc.) should carefully monitor the situation for several days to see if the problem persists. Don’t assume the bully will quit because they got a stern talking to, suspended etc. Remember that when confronted, a bully will often say all the right things, and then continue to bully their victim(s).

In a later post, we examine the best response to continued bullying.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bullying Series: Introduction to Bullies and Bullying

Introduction to Bullies and Bullying
For today’s kids, bullying is on the rise. If you are a parent, chances are good that your child knows a bully, has been bullied, or knows other kids who have experienced bullying. To respond effectively to bullies, it’s important to first establish a definition of what bullying means and what drives kids to bully.

What’s considered bullying?
Bullying can include everything from name calling to harassment, pranks, threats, and verbal and physical assaults. These things aren’t just against school policy. They are criminal activities.

Worst states for bullies
According to new bullying statistics, these states report the highest rates of bullying in grades K–12.
1. California
2. New York
3. Illinois
4. Pennsylvania
5. Washington

Bullying is learned behavior
In some cases, the bully is acting on learned behavior. They may have issues at home with an angry parent or parents. In their home environment, the message (spoken or unspoken) may be that violence can be used to solve problems. As a result, their pent up emotions, aggressions and frustrations boil over into aggressive and often violent behavior. When unresolved, these issues can continue on into adulthood. More often than not, bully parents produce kids who are bullies and continue the cycle.

Confronting a bully
When confronted about bullying and asked whether it is appropriate behavior, a young bully will generally admit that this type of activity is wrong. They will then continue bullying—showing the deep roots of the bullying tendency. Someone who is a known bully should be carefully monitored. Those facing bullying in and around school can benefit from advice on dealing with bullies. I’ll discuss this more in upcoming articles.