Bullying is toxic not only to the target of the attacks, but to bystanders who do nothing to stop it, and ultimatley to the bully as well. Here are 10 tips to help you get started on stopping this all-too-common behavior.
by Debra Weaver
The image of the unattractive schoolyard bully with clenched fists and a chip on his shoulder is usually not accurate, according to internationally recognized speaker and author Barbara Coloroso.
Coloroso has spent decades studying strategies for parenting children and positive school climates. She has authored five best-selling books on those subjects, including The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to High School, How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence.
In an interview with Parent USA City, Coloroso said that bullying is very destructive not only to the target of the attacks but to the bystanders and the bully as well. Here are 10 tips from her that parents can use to stop bullying in its tracks.
1. Learn about the different forms bullying can take and how to identify the signs of bullying. Coloroso identifies seven kinds of bullies: the confident bully, the social bully, the fully armored bully, the hyperactive bully, the bullied bully, the bunch of bullies, and the gang of bullies. She says that bullying is not about anger, or even about conflict; it’s about contempt—“arrogance in action.” And it is not inborn, but is a learned behavior.
2. Teach your children friendship skills. Having a friend and being a friend are two powerful antidotes to bullying. Friendships will not only build allies to buffer the child if a bully attacks, but help children see others as human beings, rather as targets of ridicule or disdain. “In friendship, we honor the uniqueness or others and our common humanity,” Coloroso said.
3. Give your child words to respond effectively and the courage to use them. Examples: “That comment was beneath both of us.” “We’re not going to laugh at people.” “That was mean. I’m out of here.”
4. Distinguish between telling and tattling, reporting and ratting. Kids are taught not to tattle, so it’s hard for them to know when to tell when they know something is wrong. Let them know that if they see someone being hurtful to themselves or others, it is important to tell adults who can safely stop the behavior. Coloroso tells of a student in Vancouver who told his parents about an online post from a boy who planned to kill his tormentors at school. When police investigated, they found weapons in the boy’s home and a plan to use them the next day.
5. Note the warning signs of a child who’s being bullied. These include having torn or missing clothing, taking an unusual route to school, showing an abrupt lack or interest in school or friends at school, and having headaches, sleep disorders, stomach aches, or panic attacks.
6. Model the behavior you want to see. If an acquaintance or family member makes a bigoted comment, tell them that you don’t like it. “As the adult, can you stand up and be a good role model?” asks Coloroso.
7. Empathize with a child who is bullied and keep them safe. Let the child know, “I’m here for you; you’re not alone.” Get the facts, and suggest strategies for the child (not fighting back!). If the situation happened at school, report it and schedule a meeting with the appropriate personnel.
8. Be aware of the dangers of cyber bullying. Name-calling online, starting rumors, and posting ugly things about a person are some forms of cyber bullying. Coloroso cites a case in which a group of fifth grade girls posted online, “Top Six Ways to Kill Piper,” a classmate, to show how destructive this type of bullying can be.
9. Teach your children how to get into groups by sharing common interests. Model how children can use their words to get out of a group that is engaged in negative behavior. One statement they can use is, “I’m not going to be part of that.” Giving them an out helps them avoid going along with the crowd in uncomfortable situations.
10. Be part of the solution even if your child isn’t being bullied. Schools and families need to develop strategies to keep bullied kids safe, reform bullies, and educate bystanders.
More from Coloroso:
Coloroso’s website, Kids Are Worth It, has resources for recognizing bullying behavior, knowing how to report it, and how to develop caring schools where bullying is stopped while maintaining the dignity of everyone involved.
Debra Weaver is a writer and educator with 12 years of classroom experience and more in youth programs. She has written pieces for a variety of electronic and print publications, including the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series.