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Talking with Your Kids About Bullying

Guest Post
By Dr. Mildred Peyton
June 21, 2016

As a mother of two school-aged daughters, a bullying expert, and children and youth advocate, I'm here to inform parents, in particular, that bullying is not to be taken lightly and, to provide parents with five tips of what to highlight as they talk with their children about bullying.

Before divulging my five tips to parents (and anyone reading this article), first, I want readers to understand what bullying is. By definition, bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that is repeated, or has the potential of being repeated, and involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the victim and the bully (also known as the perpetrator).  Simply put, for a behavior to constitute bullying, there must be recurrences of aggression (in the form of physical, verbal, social, and cyberbullying) aimed at a specific target.

When it comes to talking to your children about bullying, it is important that parents take the time to do their homework (i.e., research) before starting the conversation. More than likely their definition or understanding of bullying is no longer feasible. For example, in the past, bullying was acceptable or was not seen serious among children and youth; it was considered a right of passage for children growing up, as it was normal and all right for kids to argue, and even get into a few scuffles, especially boys. Today, this is not the case, as those notions of behaviors once deemed okay are obsolete, as they could potentially lead to bullying. With today's status quo of bullying, we must not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear; instead, we must heed its warnings and effects. Bullying has evolved and has become an epidemic over the past decade and has triggered great concerns as well as igniting conversations among parents, policymakers, school officials, and human services professionals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kids bullied are twice as likely to commit suicide or have suicide ideations than nonvictims; and in a 2013 nationwide survey, 20% of high school students reported being victims of bullying while on school property. Another source stated that 60% of fourth- through eighth-grade children reported being victims of bullying. These statistics are alarming and support further records showing that 160,000 kids stay home each day in an effort to escape bullying.  The most disturbing findings revealed that 86% of adolescent students reported that being bullied causes teenagers to turn to lethal violence in school. This concept ties with the effects of bullying and how it was pinpointed that in 12 of 15 shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being victims of bullying.

Bearing all this in mind, let us now get into the tips you've been waiting to discover: what parents must include in their conversations about bullying.  I highly recommend parents of school-aged children incorporate my five tips below when talking with their kids about bullying:

1. Talk with your kids about what bullying is and how to address it safely.  After you've defined bullying with your children, you will want to brainstorm ways to safely approach/report the situation. This could mean getting the school to become aware of the incidents (e,g., tell a teacher, coach, counselor, principal, etc.), and minimizing contact with the perpetrator(s).

2. Talk with your kids about the importance of maintaining an open line of communication.  As parents, we cannot allow our adult lives and responsibilities to overshadow our time with our children. We must make time each day to ask our children about their day in school and not settle for simply, "It was okay", or "It was good/bad."  Probe to understand why or what made their day the way they described it. This way, if they were being bullied, you would have already established some comfort level, enabling you to help them talk with you at ease. Also, having an open line of communication allows parents to notice red flags and use them to help and protect their kids.

3. Talk with your kids about being resilient and not accepting someone to bully them. By now, we should all be aware that being bullied cannot be avoided. However, we parents must empower and inspire our children to always speak up for themselves and others without compromising their safety. When kids stand up and tell their parents or a trusted adult, they lower their chances of being future targets.

4. Talk with your kids about not bullying others.  Most times, parents seldom address the fact that their child/children can potentially and intentionally cause harm to their peers. We must not shy away from this notion, but instead, embrace it and teach our children how to respect others and treat others the way they would like to be treated.

5. Talk with your kids about making good decisions. Ultimately our actions and behaviors stem from the decisions we make. Someone can make the decision whether or not he or she will become a bully or a victim of bullying.  Overall, when we have this discussion with our kids, they will learn to make deliberate and conscious decisions about their interactions with others, and other daily encounters.  Teaching our kids how to be responsible and accountable at an early age, especially, could be the least of any parents' worries in their child's teenage and adult years.

To learn more about recent bullying findings, read my latest research, "Exploring the Meaning of School Bullying Among Parents of Victimized Children" at www.drmildredpeyton.com.

Thank you, Funky Frugal Mommy, for being a part of my voice against bullying!

If you're a mother in need of great fun and healthy ideas for your family, go to www.funkyfrugalmommy.com and you'll be happy you stopped by!

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): www.cdc.gov

Stand for the Silent: www.standforthesilent.org

Stopbullying.gov

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