If you’re like most fathers, you probably teach your children that bullying isn’t going to be tolerated in your home. While growing up, you may have even been the victim of bullying. But when one of your kids gets bullied it can make you feel angry, sad and helpless all at the same time.
At that point, you might find yourself torn between confronting the bully and saying something you might regret later, versus using a less confrontational approach to protect your child. Fortunately, there are several ways to deal with bullying that will also set a more positive example for your family.
Bullying is Still Common in Schools
The Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center has compiled these very troubling bullying statistics about schools:
- More than one-in-five students report getting bullied every year.
- Over 13% of all bullying victims are called names, made fun of or insulted; 12% are the subject of rumors; 5% are excluded from activities on purpose; and another 5% get pushed, spit on or tripped.
- Bullied students report that the bullying activities occur more commonly in school areas like the hallway or stairwell, inside the classroom, cafeteria, on the bus, or outside the building on school grounds.
- One-in-three victims report being bullied at least once or twice per month during the school year.
- Less than half of all bullied students report that they notified an adult at school about the incident(s). Students who report getting bullied more often are also more likely to report the fact that they are being bullied.
- Over 15% of all high school students are the victims of cyberbullying each year, and in nearly half the cases the identity of the perpetrator is unknown.
Sadly, a 2018 report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that bullied students are placed at higher risk for experiencing sleep disorders, depression, low self-esteem, and many other mental, physical and behavioral issues.
Anti-Bullying Tips for Families
Whether the bullying occurs at school or elsewhere, there are several preventative steps you can take as a parent to better prepare your kids:
Talk About Bullying
When your children are young talk to them about what bullying is, what to do if it happens to them, or if they see it happening to someone else. Discuss the importance of speaking to a trusted adult, including their parents, if they or someone they know is being bullied.
Also talk about non-violent ways to stand up to bullies, like saying “stop”, using humor to diffuse the situation, or simply walking away. Discuss other ways to stay safe, like hanging around trusted adults or groups of fellow students. And finally, urge them to support kids who are getting bullied by seeking help and showing kindness.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
As their father, your children look to you for advice when making tough decisions, and bullying is no exception. Make sure you give your kids a chance to express their feelings by spending at least 15 minutes of quality time with them every day. Ask your children questions like:
- What was one good thing that happened at school today?
- Did anything bad happen today?
- Who do you hang out with at lunchtime?
- What do you and your friends talk about?
- What’s it like to ride the school bus?
If you suspect that bullying is affecting your child’s behavior but they aren’t telling you about it, try a more direct line of questioning that won’t put them on the defensive. Start up a conversation by asking these types of questions:
- What does “bullying” mean to you?
- Why do you think kids bully others?
- If you see someone getting bullied, are there adults that you can go to for help?
- Have you or your friends ever left others kids out of activities on purpose?
- Have you ever felt scared at school or on the bus?
- What do you do when you see someone being bullied?
Taking these steps will keep an open and honest line of communication going and show your child that you value their thoughts and feelings.
Stay Informed About School Events
Here are some ways to stay informed about school-related activities that impact your kids’ lives:
- Attend school events and activities
- Check the school website
- Get to know their bus driver
- Meet with their teachers, counselors and deans
- Read the school newsletter and flyers
- Share phone numbers and information with other parents
Even if it sometimes embarrasses them, doing these things will also show your kids that you take a strong interest in their lives, which will ultimately make them more likely to seek you out for advice when something’s troubling them.
Encourage Your Kids to Get Involved
Also encourage your children to pursue interests, hobbies and activities they enjoy, whether it’s singing in the school choir, volunteering at a local hospital, or joining a school club or church youth group.
These opportunities not only give kids a chance to have fun and meet others with similar interests, being part of a group helps build self-confidence and protects members from bullies.
Model Kindness and Respect
Good or bad, children oftentimes pick up on their parents’ actions and then mirror those behaviors later. When you treat others with kindness and respect- even when it’s a bully- it teaches your kids that there are positive ways to resolve conflicts without compromising your principles.
Being a more positive role model when it comes to standing up for your loved ones during times of stress and conflict will teach your kids valuable lessons that will carry over to how they treat their classmates, teachers, siblings and, eventually, their own families.
When you find yourself as a father in a situation during which it becomes necessary to confront someone who’s bullying one of your kids, the Bible has this advice:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
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