Bullies. Who are they? What do they do? How can you protect your child?
By Brian Barron
Identifying a bully is more difficult than you would think. If your son takes a toy from another child in a play group is he a bully? If your daughter teases another child because of a hole in their shirt, is she a bully? There is a fine line between “normal behaviour” and bullying.
Bullying is the repeated use of violence or the threat of violence against a child that is perceived by the bully to be weaker. Two keys here:
- 1. the bully needs to feel superior; and
- 2. the bullying becomes serial (that is, the bully finds a victim that can be dominated).
Bullying often begins with actions that can be explained away by the bully as practical jokes. There was a commercial on television a while back for a shipping company. They were showing how they would take attendance and track missing students. In the middle of the search they inadvertently free a student that was locked in a locker. The boy was a perfect stereotype of a bully’s victim. He was small, nerdy, and wore glasses. Once the bully has a victim the violence usually escalates.
Most schools have awareness campaigns and anti-bullying literature. Some are more effective than others. So what can you do?
- 1. Communicate with your child. Be sensitive to changes in behaviour. Especially any reluctance to go to school. Two great questions to ask daily- What’s the best thing that happened at school today? What’s the worst thing that happened at school today? Make sure your child knows that you are willing to listen and able to help with any problems.
- 2. Communicate with your child’s school friends. Have them over to your house. It doesn’t have to be an occasion. Let your child invite one, two or three classmates over for a play day. Get them together for a snack and ask them what they like best about school. Then sit back and listen. Be the parent that drives the kids to the park, movie, or sporting event. When they are in the car listen to their chatter.
- 3. Communicate with the school. Meet the teacher early in the school year. Volunteer if you can. Go to parent nights and report card interviews. Teachers appreciate knowing there is a caring parent at the other end of the phone line. If you have any concerns go to the school and address them. Be calm and supportive; but firm. If they are aware of you as a concerned parent you will get better results from the school.
- The best defence against teasing is indifference. If the child being teased does not react there is no fun in teasing. Teasing is verbal bullying and the bully is looking for a reaction. NO REACTION, NO REINFORCEMENT.
- Find a friend. Bullies look for loners. Make sure your child does not go to or from school alone.
- Make noise. Unlike the response to verbal teasing, the reaction to any physical abuse should be loud. Silence is submission. Tears and trembling are victories for the bully. Yelling such phrases as “Stop!”, or “Cut that
out!” or “Get away from me!” can be effective two ways. They
alert people in the vicinity that there is a problem. They also surprise the bully and can put him or her on the defensive.
Sadly, there will always be bullying in our schools. The best we can do is keep our children from being the victims.
Brian Barron is a retired teacher/administrator. He taught for 36 years before retiring to take care of his grandchildren. When not with the kids he is still teaching occasionally and is deeply involved in Mad Science(teaching Science wonder to young children). His career spanned 15 years in the elementary system and 21 in the secondary. He has two sons, and a daughter-in-law who are all teachers.