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Preventing bullying

Question:

I am a young mother with two boys, and I have some questions about bullying.  First, as a parent, how do I know if my children are being bullied? Second, how can I prevent this and feel confident that the school is protecting my children?  Third, what advice do you offer to parents about protecting their children from bullying?

 

Answer:

In response to your first question, the two most important elements of recognizing bullying are observation and communication. When you drop off and pick up your children at school, pay attention to how they are acting. Are they avoiding friends or sitting alone? Evaluate their moods before and after school.  Reinforce that they can tell you anything.  

Check with their teachers every month to ensure that they are doing well in school, and ask if the teacher has observed them being bullied or bullying classmates. Observation is particularly important regarding cyber bullying. Make certain that your children only use a computer in a public area of the home so you can monitor their online activity.  

The best way to know that your school is protecting your children is to communicate regularly. Know the difference between bullying and normal conflicts. Bullying is abuse that is intentional and repeated. A one-time conflict between people when they argue or disagree is unfortunate but is not bullying. 

If your child reports this kind of incident, investigate his response to the conflict.  If need be, instruct more appropriate ways to handle the situation in the future.  This will help your child from being bullied or doing any bullying himself.

Parents can get involved in the school through organizations such as the PTA and by volunteering in the classroom. Parent organizations often bring bullying education programs to schools. Students learn about the risks and dangers associated with bullying, as well as methods to prevent it from occurring.  

One of the most important elements of this type of educational programming is that it empowers bystanders. Most students involved in a bullying situation are neither bullies nor the one being bullied. They are bystanders. Bystanders have incredible power to help the situation because they generally outnumber the bullies by five to one or more.

Thus, one step to protect your children from bullying is to tell them how to protect other students. Report bullying to teachers; gather other bystanders to tell the bully to stop; or help the target to get away from the situation by inviting him or her to participate in a new activity. When parents and teachers educate students to be active and protective bystanders, bullying will be less likely to occur. 

 

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