The core elements of bullying, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include “unwanted aggressive behavior; observed or perceived power imbalance; and repetition of behaviors or high likelihood of repetition”.
Bullying happens with disturbing frequency, but numbers do not begin to tell the whole story. The most alarming statistic has to do with the fact that the majority of bullying goes unreported, even when the victim suffers injury.
A critical first step in creating safer learning environments, according to The Center for Safe Schools, is more complete and immediate reporting.
Encouraging children to talk about intimidation is not about tattling, it is about our collective responsibility to work toward safe schools, to empower children, and to overcome bullying.
We cannot console, help, equip, or empower if we do not know what is happening in our kids’ lives. Try the following 6 questions to open conversation with your child about bullying:
1. “Tell me, what were the best two things about today and the worst two things about today?”
Listen to your child, don’t lecture. It is important to get in the habit of having open communication. Our children should not be nervous about sharing anything that happens in their lives. Overreacting tells children to hide their real thoughts and feelings.
2. “If you could be a superhero and help other kids, what powers would you have?”
Role-playing can set up a safe place for honest communication. Ask for more details as the conversation continues.
3. “I’m not sure I really know what a bully is, can you describe one?”
Kids love to be “in the know.” Let them be the expert and talk you through. Ask your child how they know what they are telling you.
4. “Who are the adults you can talk to if you are scared?”
Answers may include teachers, bus drivers, coaches, friends’ parents. Follow up with, “Do you ever wish they could help you more?” and “What things make you scared?”
5. “What happens when you see other kids get pushed around?”
Sometimes it’s easier for your children to talk about what’s happening with other kids than themselves. Follow up with, “Do you ever get pushed around?”
6. “What do you think parents or teachers can do to help stop bullying?”
Again, put your child in the role of expert. Given that bullying is acknowledged, what do you – the kid – think adults can do to help?
The question is not “if” bullying happens but “how?” It is so important to have regular dialogue with your children about their behavior towards others and how they are being treated by their peers.