October is National Bullying Prevention Month

Physicians Health Network Health & Awareness Articles

Bullying is NOT OK! National Bullying Prevention Month, founded in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center is a nationwide campaign. The campaign is held during the month of October and unites communities around the world educating people about and building awareness for bullying prevention.

According to experts, bullying has three key components:

1. An intent to harm.
2. A power imbalance.
3. Repeated acts or threats of aggressive behavior.

“Bullies say or do things that are intentionally hurtful to others and they keep doing it, with no sense of regret or remorse — even when their victims show or express their hurt or tell the aggressors to stop,” said Amy J. Harms, MD, Sheboygan Pediatric Associates.
The fact is bullying is not gender-biased, both girls and boys can be bullies. Additionally, bullies typically ‘prey’ upon children who cry, get mad or easily give in to demands. “Some people think bullies are only physically abusive, but there are actually three types of bullies: physical, verbal and social,” said Dr. Harms. Bullying is so common place that all children will inevitably witness or be involved in bullying at some point during this school year. This is not an easy subject to bring up with kids, but having a discussion about it can prepare them and possibly help them learn how they can prevent it.

Since many kids are uncomfortable talking about this subject, Dr. Harms suggests that parents begin by saying they are hearing a lot about bullying and asking if their child knows about it. Once the conversation gets underway, it is important to make sure the child knows his/her parents will support and help them work through the problem should one ever occur. “Encouraging your child to come to you if they are in trouble, telling them you love them and that you can work it out together is a good way to make sure your child knows they can turn to you for help.”

Signs Your Child is Being Bullied
“There are many signs of bullying to look for,” said Dr. Harms. When the bullying is physical the signs are more obvious, like torn clothes, unexplained injuries or missing belongings. “But, when the bully is verbal or social, the signs can be more subtle such as withdrawal from some of their friends, slipping grades or a loss of interest in organized activities.” Parents, teachers and other adults may also notice mood changes and the onset of depression. Bullied kids will also look for excuses to stay home from school. “It’s important to be perceptive in noticing these and other signs and to talk to the child’s teachers, coaches and other adults of influence to see if they are also noticing any changes in behavior or mood.”
In recent years, problems with cyberbullying have come to the forefront. The best thing your child can do if he/she is being cyberbullied, is to not respond and delete the post. If he/she is being threatened, print the post and contact law enforcement.
Many kids on social media are actually too young to be using the sites (the legal age for users is 13-years old). “It is crucial for parents to be knowledgeable of these issues and understand the dangers of cyberbullying,” said Dr. Harms. “It is also important for parents to engage their children in regular conversations about appropriate and inappropriate posting.”
Often times parents want to confront the bully’s parents, but Dr. Harms does not recommend doing that. “Parents tend to be defensive of their children and deny he/she could be capable of this sort of behavior. This will generally lead to fighting among the adults and potentially compound the problem.” Instead, parents should gather information about the bullying and schedule an appointment with the school principal and teachers. “Most importantly, be calm when discussing your concerns so that you and your child’s school representatives can work together on resolving the problem.”

Teach Your Child How to Help a Classmate
One of the best ways to prevent bullying in school is for children to intervene when they see it happening rather than to stand by and watch it happen. “It’s important to talk to kids about leadership and helping others,” says Dr. Harms.
Studies show that bullying decreases in schools by 10 percent if kids stand up for one another.
“The way for kids to get involved if they see someone being bullied is to tell the bully to stop and take the victim to a safe place; if physical bullying is going on, the child observing the situation should not try to stop it, but rather get the help of an adult,” said Dr. Harms.
When Your Child is the Bully
• If you know your child is bullying others, take it very seriously. Now is the time when you can change your child’s behavior.
• In the long run, bullies continue to have problems. These problems often get worse. If the bullying behavior is allowed to continue, these children are much less successful in their work and family lives and may even get in trouble with the law when they become teenagers and adults.
• Set firm and consistent limits on your child’s aggressive behavior. Be sure your child knows that bullying is never OK.
• Be a positive role model. Children need to develop new and constructive strategies for getting what they want.
• Show children they can get what they want without teasing, threatening or hurting someone. All children can learn to treat others with respect.
• Use effective, nonphysical discipline, such as loss of privileges. When your child needs discipline, explain why the behavior was wrong and how your child can change it.
• Help your child understand how bullying hurts other children. Give real examples of the good and bad results of your child’s actions.
• Develop practical solutions with others. Together with the school principal, teachers, counselors, and parents of the children your child has bullied, find positive ways to stop the bullying.
“Bullying is a serious issue in our community and our country. It is important to teach our children how to display kindness and respect, while also teaching them to stand up to bullying behavior. We need to begin by setting the example as adults, and to recognize bullying early in order to seek help for all kids involved,” said Dr. Harms.