Negative or damaging social interactions with peers have always been a challenge for any child growing up. While fights outside a child's home, teasing, and malicious gossip was once considered necessary to "toughen a child up," today's parents, educators, and child welfare specialists agree that in most cases it is actually damaging to the child's development, even if he or she is only witnessing another child being bullied. Here are some ways to recognize, stop, and cope with bullying if you or your child is experiencing it.
Many people are under the impression that for a child's problem to qualify as bullying, the child must be physically harmed by other children. But that's not the case at all. There are many forms of bullying. Physical bullying is one of them, but anything that affects the child's emotional well being, such as verbal remarks about their clothing or sexuality, or simply being shunned, intimidated, or coerced by his peers also counts as bullying. Bullies may act alone, have a few participants, or be part of an entire group. Any case where the child's mental, emotional, or physical well being is being affected by peers, it can be called bullying.
Children who are suffering from bullying deal with it in a variety of ways. Some children are threatened or coerced into accepting the situation and hiding their suffering from others. Other children may train to be able to fight back against the bully. Still others will seek assistance from authority figures such as parents or teachers. In some extreme cases, children suffering from bullying have been known to harm themselves through cutting or suicide attempts.
If you think your child is being bullied, do not simply ignore the problem or tell them just to ignore the situation. Talk to the child about their problem. It may involve some coaxing to get them to open up. Once they have confided in you, you can take appropriate steps to help stop the bullying. This might include calling the bully's parents, reporting the bullying to the school, contacting the police, giving the child the means to verbally or physically defend him or herself, or educating other students on how to stop bullying. You can also encourage your child to call the Kids Help Phone.
It's important to remember that bullying is not only found in schools and among groups of children. It can occur in adulthood as well. You may find that your new neighbors may exclude your child from activities, that your co-workers in the office talk about your friend behind her back, or that new members of an organization are given a hard time. Therefore learning how to deal with it at a young age from the standpoint of a victim, bystander, or bully is important.