Bullying is a genuine problem that impacts students of all ages in schools, at home, on the playground and anywhere they go to socialize. Bullying behaviour can take the forms of physical, mental and emotional abuse. In the most severe cases, bullying can lead to self-harm or suicide.
As parents and educators, it’s essential to talk to your students about bullying before it occurs, so all of you are prepared if and when it happens. Here are a few prevention tips:
1) Start early with “no bullying” rules and consequences.
Be sure to set rules from an early age about not engaging in bullying behaviour such as teasing or name-calling. These rules not only prevent your child from bullying others but also help them identify bullying behaviour in others. At an early age, kids should also know that there are laws and policies making bullying illegal.
2) Role-play bully behaviour.
It’s important for youngsters to know what bullying looks like so it isn’t dismissed as ordinary behaviour. Give clear examples and act out scenes so kids can identify abusive behaviours and language. Teens and college-age students may benefit too so they recognize if they’re being mistreated.
3) Be a role model for anti-bullying.
Be the model for bullying prevention by not being a bully yourself—don’t tease or name-call; this includes not calling yourself names or exhibiting self-critical behaviour. Also, call out inappropriate language or behaviour from others around you.
4) Get involved with anti-bullying authorities and programs.
Seek out local anti-bullying programs at your child’s school, in the community or at your local community mental health center and use these programs to effectively create positive change.
5) Understand consequences.
Students should see clearly, in print, the consequences of bullying, which may involve suspension or expulsion. Many programs have also recognized that bullies often also need protection; we now know that aggressive and hateful behaviour has a root cause that should be examined before imposing an unfair judgment or penalty. School- and community-based therapists can help these students.
6) Provide support and safety for bullied students.
Teach kids who have been bullied how to reach out and get support from friends, teachers and administrators at school—and let them know they will be supported!
As parents, guardians and educators, we’re responsible for ensuring that the students in our lives don’t become victims and, if they do, we should know how to get them the support they need to overcome the emotional scars it can potentially leave behind.
Doing your part
Help bring anti-bullying initiatives to your school by enlisting the principal or vice-principal’s support. Volunteer, get on the PTA board and attend meetings. Connecting with other parents and teachers can also help you get a sense of any bullying going on at school.