As we know all too well these days, bullying can happen any time, any where and to anyone, from the youngest children in daycare (or even at home) and beyond. The following tips will help parents find ways to detect, prevent and deal with the bullying of young children.
1. Be your child's go-to person.
Make sure your child always feels safe telling you about incidents at school, at play in the neighborhood, at church/Sunday school, or even at home from the other parent or a sibling. I know a family that goes around the dinner table and everyone (parents and children alike) share the best thing that happened during the day and the worst thing that happened during the day. This helps everyone learn to appreciate and really notice when someone is kind and opens a door for them, or plays with them on the playground. To illustrate that no one is exempt from rudeness or bullying, other family members should share with their child/children bad situations at work or when they were young. Exploring how to handle the bad situations can be a teaching/learning moment for all members of the family.
2. Parents, don't be an inadvertent bully.
If the parent is constantly saying things that make a child feel bad about themselves, this is form of bullying. You may hear yourself saying, "I know you can get better grades." But the child may be hearing only, "I'm stupid and won't ever be able to please anyone." Listen to what you say often to your child and make sure you aren't behaving in a manner that would not be acceptable behavior from others.
3. Discuss what actions can be considered bullying.
Help your child see that bullying can be words, actions, ignoring someone, giggling and pointing. Discuss ways to positively respond to each instance.
4. Welcome your child's friends into your home.
Perhaps even invite their whole family to a cookout or other event so that you can get to know the parents. If any of the friends seem to have an unusual amount of power over your child, you may need to help your child see that this person is not a true friend if everything always has to be their way.
5. Stop sibling bullying.
Sometimes the bullying is being done by a sibling. If one child seems to have dominance over another child, sit down immediately and let them know that this behavior will not be tolerated. Make sure to follow through and discipline the bully when you see this happening either in the way she/he treats their sibling. Also make sure the child being bullied feels safe in coming to you.
6. Discipline your children appropriately if you see them doing or saying (or texting) something that you don't consider kind.
That way others--teachers, other parents or day care workers, etc.--don't have to become the disciplinarian.
7. Help your child think of ways to react to bullying.
For instance, if they are being teased about wearing glasses, perhaps there is a phrase they use to make the other person think twice about making comments like that again. If the child is being teased for being overweight, perhaps the whole family can review their eating habits and activities and work together to lose weight and feel better. Taking steps to change things, or practicing ways to react to mean comments, will make a child feel ready to stand up for themselves or others when they see bullying happening.
When your child gets a little older, you also have to keep in mind these next tips.
8. Understand cyber-bullying.
One of the newest arenas where a child can feel helpless against what is being said or shown in pictures about them is online. Make sure to carefully monitor screen time in a way that feels protective to your child and not intrusive. The more conversations you have with your kids about what occurs online, the more likely they will be able to talk to you about what's going on. Take every opportunity to teach them how to manage themselves in confusing situations.
9. Learn the latest lingo.
This includes verbal, texting and online slang. Do you know that CD9 means parents are around and that 99 means parents have left? Your child may be hiding something that can lead to poor self-esteem, depression, even suicide.
10. Do unto others as you would have them do onto you, is still great advice.
A friend's child was having trouble on the school bus with one particular boy. The mother suggested that this child might not know the right way to be a friend. So the child being bullied went out of his way to be extra nice to the bully. Once the bully realized there was a different way to act, the two children became real friends.
While nothing will totally stop bullying, at least by putting into practice some of these tips, I hope you can make the consequences for your child less damaging.