Give me your lunch money, or else…

childhood friends
Friends are important.

School is about learning, discovering, making friends and learning how to get along with others. Sometimes our kids have to learn to deal with a bully and it’s not fun, for you or your kid. My children have had to deal with bullies a few times already. 

It's hard to confront a bully

 I sought out advice from several teachers, mothers and a psychologist about the best way to deal with a bully situation. From my own children’s experiences, I believe communication is of the utmost importance, an adult should be informed to help the child deal with the problem. With one of my children, I had no idea she and several others in her class were being bullied for two years till another class mother told me. I was upset that I hadn’t known and I asked my daughter why she hadn’t told me about the abuses she suffered at  school. At 7 years old her response was “oh mama, it’s so embarrassing!” She had dealt with the bullies on her own by fighting back, she’s a tough cookie.

big bullies
Kids can be very mean to one another.

Children often don’t want anyone to know that they are being bullied for fear of being made fun of, shame or reprisal. The parent of the bullied child should not initially confront the parents of the bully; this takes power away from the bullied child which can further distress the him/her. The teacher is usually the most important problem solver in a case of bullying. I went to the class teacher in all situations and I informed the teacher as to what was happening outside of the class room, but on school grounds. Teachers often opt to talk with the class about what’s going on and sometimes a weekly class discussion time is implemented to talk about problems, thoughts or concerns of the students. I found that these discussion times were helpful for the children. Teachers often have no idea bullying is occurring and they should be told. If the problem can’t be solved by the teacher talking to the bully, the teacher should have a meeting with the bully and their parents. 

how to tame a bully
One of my children reacted with tears, the other one reacted with her fists.

 If a child’s teacher does not step in and deal with the problem for whatever reason, seek the help of another teacher, counselor or principal at the school. If no one at the child’s school takes a bullying situation seriously and fails to act upon the best interests of a child, you may consider changing schools. Just because a teacher intervenes and parents have been informed doesn’t mean that the problem will always go away. Children often need outside help to learn to deal with aggression, talking to a therapist is a good way for a child to learn social coping techniques. I told my children that they need to stand up for themselves; this seems obvious to me, but not always obvious to some children. Learning to deal with a bully is a skill that one will use their entire lives; I’ve run into plenty of bullies as an adult.  Bullies are not always peers, teachers can also bully students, we have encountered this problem as well. After my husband and I learned that our child didn’t want to go to school and was very stressed out because of what went on in the class room, we set up a meeting with the principal and the teacher to inform them that our child felt intimidated by the teacher’s yelling in the class and from insulting comments that the teacher made to the children. Sometimes just telling the teacher how you feel about his/her actions in class is enough to get them to stop or at least tone it down a little. I’ve found that many parents are afraid to speak up.

school friends
childhood friends

For a parent,  knowing that your child is suffering at the hands of another is frustrating and at these times I think most of us would like to step in and “do something” about it to help our children. Stepping in (for example, informing the teacher) is one thing, but acting for our children (for example, speaking to, yelling at, threatening) the child or children tormenting our children is unacceptable. Parents are offended (rightfully so) when other parents reprimand their children. I’ve seen parents become hostile about a bullying situation, screaming at the offending child, the child’s  parents and even the teachers for not being able to control the situation; these people were later banned from the school grounds. Each case is different and should be dealt with as so. Parents are not always open minded (sometimes downright blind) to the idea or fact that their “little darling” is bullying another child and they become defensive (sometimes nasty) when told so, this is why letting the school authorities handle the situation is a better idea for everyone. I am happy to announce that my children have come through all their challenging social situations and we’re working our way through the new ones that come up. The best piece of advice I can give is, when “a situation” arises, take a deep breath before you proceed.