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How Can I Prevent Bullying in My Child’s School and Neighborhood?

Victims of bullying are not just those who are being bullied, but also those who bully and those who see it happening, or ‘bystanders.’ The majority of children feel uncomfortable watching a bullying situation; however, research shows that they rarely act to stop the bullying.

Communicating To Prevent Bullying

Your child may be afraid to talk about his experience for fear of being bullied for ‘tattling,’ and sometimes your child may feel pressured to participate in the bullying. Bullying can be prevented and it has to start early as bullying behavior can begin as early as preschool. Below are a few basic tips to help you prevent your child from becoming a bystander, a victim, or a bully, including how to promote respectful behavior.

  • Talk about bullying. What it means, different kinds of bullying, why kids bully. Explain to your child that he can help to stop bullying by telling you or another adult when they see or experience bullying of any kind. For information to help you talk about this, see OneToughJob’s tips on Bullying—What Parents Should Know.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. The majority of bullying takes place at school, and the best thing you can do is keep the lines of communication open by asking and talking about school, and your child’s friends, and being involved in your child’s school life.
  • Talk to your child’s school. What is their policy on bullying? Do they have a bullying prevention program? If not, become an advocate for school-wide prevention programs and policies.

How Can I Promote Respectful Behavior?

One way to prevent your child from becoming a bully or a ‘bystander’ is to help your child learn respectful behavior. The Committee for Children suggests the following strategies to help you teach and reinforce this type of behavior.

  • Spend time with your child. Plan time each day to talk with your child about any joys or difficulties he encountered. When problems come up, help him think of respectful, cooperative ways to solve them.
  • Know your child’s friends and their parents. When your child is away from home, make sure that you know and trust the children she spends time with and their parents.
  • Be consistent about discipline. Hold your child responsible for negative or hurtful behavior, but avoid using public put-downs and physical punishment. (These methods validate causing shame and using physical violence as solutions to problems.) Make sure that your child understands the consequences of his actions.
  • Consider removing games, video games, or movies that reward violence. Some children learn how to bully by seeing it on television or in video games. Limiting your child's exposure the type of media that rewards aggression and physical violence helps to reduce the likelihood your child will use these methods in real life.
  • Encourage your child to be slow to take offense. Often, children who bully are quick to interpret innocent actions as hostile (such as being hit by a stray elbow in the hall). Teach your child to stay cool and calm by counting to ten or trying self-talk. For example, your child could say to himself, “I don’t get mad about little stuff like this.” Praise your child for choosing respectful, non-aggressive responses.
  • Make sure your child knows what other kids expect. Respectful behaviors we have all learned include taking turns or apologizing when you accidentally hurt someone. Observe your child playing with others. Are there unspoken rules that he doesn’t understand? If so, discuss them with him privately.
  • Help your child see other points of view. Children who bully often have difficulty interpreting facial expressions or tone of voice. They forget to consider other children’s feelings. Explore with your child how she might feel “in someone else’s shoes.”

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