The theme this year for National Bullying Prevention Month is “Stomp out Bullying.” Almost daily there is a news story about a child who was bullied while other kids tape it on their phones and post online. To change the kids who record the bullying into the kids who intervene can start with just one person.
According to the Ohio Department of Education, Ohio law defines bullying, harassment and intimidation as any “intentional written, verbal, graphic or physical act that a student or group of students exhibits toward another student more than once, and that behavior causes mental or physical harm to the other student; and is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment for the other student.”
“Military children move on an average of two to nine times throughout their K-12 education,” said Janet Wynn, Child & Youth Education school liaison officer, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. “New states, new schools and making new friends can be tough, even though military children are known to be resilient.”
Parents play an important role in preventing bullying.
“Modeling at home what behavior is OK and what is not OK is very important,” said Wynn. “Children model what they see.”
It’s important to talk to your kids about their day. Wynn believes that parents should know their children’s social circle, both in person and online acquaintances.
“If a child indicates to their parents that they are being bullied, ask them for specifics and document their responses and reactions,” she said. “Then notify the school to ensure they address the situation.”
“It is a common belief that bullying is a ‘rite of passage,’” said Maj. Natosha S. Onasanya, a public health physician with the 88th Medical Group. “However, we have more information about how bullying can be a threat to the safety and well-being of the victim and bystanders.”
Sometimes, however, a child won’t discuss with his or her parents about being bullied. What can a parent do if a child isn’t talking?
Onasanya points out that the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry indicates there are signs a child is being bullied that parents should be aware of. These signs are:
• Missing personal items;
• Physical complaints, hoping to stay home from school;
• Changes in eating and sleeping habits;
• A drop in grades;
• Unhappiness regarding school or trouble over behavior;
• Defensive about their behavior and attitude.
The parents of a bullied child should stay calm, she said. Onasanya stresses that they should involve their child in the solution and together problem-solve the issue. Find out if the child has tried certain things to help themselves.
Meet with the school’s administration and the child’s teacher to strategize on how to address the bully or bullies. It can be as easy as walking away but may also require an adult authority figure at the school to become involved. The bullied child should be assertive and stay around friends, travelling the hallways with friends and/or in a group.
It’s important for the bullied child to report any physical bullying and any weapons or threat of future assault.
There are differences between boy bullies and girl bullies. How can a parent know if their child is a bully?
Onasanya said, “In general, male bully perpetrators may use physical intimidation or threats and have either gender as targets; female bully perpetrators tend to use verbal intimidation or exclusion with female targets.”
Just as there are signs that a child is being bullied, there are also indicators that a child is the bully.
“Many bully perpetrators enjoy controlling or dominating others out of their own insecurity,” said Onasanya. “They may have been the victims of bullying themselves.”
“Here are some signs a bully may display: irritable, low frustration tolerance, poor academic performance and multiple disciplinary issues in the school environment,” she said.
When parents find out their child is bullying and terrorizing other students, Onasanya said they should do the following:
• Calmly speak to the child and openly inquire about their child’s account of the incident(s);
• Provide consequences for their child’s behavior, firmly making a stance that bullying will not be tolerated;
• Implement clear rules and expectations for their child’s behavior, providing fair, consistent consequences. Be sure to recognize and affirm appropriate behavior;
• Create positive memories with your child and closely monitor your child’s activities – social networking and going out with friends;
• Build on their child’s strengths and positive qualities;
• Ensure the school hold their child accountable for the bullying behavior and ask the school administration to communicate any future [bad behavior and improvements in behavior].
Lastly, parents should not overlook sibling bullying. It is very different from sibling rivalry.
Onasanya said, “Sibling bullying can enter a slippery slope of sibling abuse, which is the most common overlooked form of family violence.”
Both Wynn and Onasanya agree that parents should be controlled, persistent and steadfast in following up with the school to stay informed and updated on how the problem is being rectified.
For more information on bullying prevention, go to http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Student-Supports/Anti-Harassment-Intimidation-and-Bullying-Resource/Anti-Bullying-Resources-for-Parents.