by Trish Berg
I remember it like it was yesterday, even though almost thirty years have passed. She waited for me to walk past her on the school bus only to trip me. She called me “Monkey Face,” and even slashed my bike tires one day, forcing me to walk home. As an elementary student, I was the victim of bullying. I let the bullying go on far too long before asking my mom for help. I didn’t know how to make it S.T.O.P.
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Your kids don’t have to wait. There is a way to S.T.O.P. bullying, cyber bullying statistics have gone up, it is time for us to do something. The first step is recognizing that bullying is a big deal, and is not a natural part of growing up. Bullying should not be tolerated by children, parents or teachers. It is a team effort. We are all accountable, and need to act appropriately to S.T.O.P. bullying.
“Hundreds of thousands of children dread going to school each day to face the taunts, jeers, and humiliation inflicted by bullies.” (1) A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that nearly one third of our kids are victims of bullying at school (2). Preventative measures to S.T.O.P. bullying:
1) Define bullying so your children know what it is. Bullies are children who intentionally and repeatedly tease, exclude, or physically hurt other children.
2) Discuss bullying with your children, and open the lines of communication. Start talking about bullying with your children. Ask them if they have ever been bullied, or witnessed someone else being bullied.
3) Teach them not to be a bully. Teach your children not to use cruel words, tease their classmates, exclude kids, or physically hurt anyone. They do not have like everyone, but they should never be cruel to anyone.
4) Discuss what to do if they witness another child being bullied. Children should immediately stand up for the victim by intervening themselves with words like, “Stop being mean to my friend!” If physical violence is involved, they should get immediate help from an adult near by.
5) Discuss what to do if your child is bullied. Here is a simple acronym you can teach your children so they can be prepared if they are ever bullied: Stand up to the bully, and tell them to STOP hurting you. Say it loudly and clearly for others to hear. Take appropriate action to get away from the bully, either by walking or running, or getting an adult to help. Open up to a trusted adult in your life (like your parents, a teacher or pastor), and tell them you are being bullied. Protect yourself from bullies by staying in groups, not walking home alone, and playing in playground areas near teachers.
What adults can do to S.T.O.P. bullying:
1) Stop and listen. Take complaints of bullying seriously. Bullying is a serious matter, and victims of bullying must be assured that you will protect them.
2) Be responsive. Take immediate, appropriate action to protect the victim. The longer bullying continues, the more dangerous it becomes. Take appropriate action to immediately protect the victim from the bully.
3) Follow through with your child’s teachers, school administrators and counselors. Make sure that they have taken appropriate action to stop the bullying and protect your child. If they have not, you need to take further action which may include temporarily removing your child from school, contacting the principal, superintendent or the police (if physical violence in involved).
“When children are picked on by bullies, whether physically or mentally, many feel the need to suffer in silence for fear that speaking up will provoke further torture. But bullying is not a problem that usually just takes care of itself. Action needs to be taken.” (3) I stayed silent far too long when I was young. Your kids should not. Let’s all work together to S.T.O.P. bullying in its tracks!
Additional resources for parents and teachers:
http://www.bullying.org – An award winning, non-profit, Internet resource created to help prevent bullying. It is the number one bullying-referenced website in the world.
http://www.drphil.com – Has a link to printable anti-bullying pledges for schools, students, parents, and teachers.
1. “Think You Know What a Bully Looks Like? Think Again,” http://www.pta.org/.
2. Victoria Clayton, “Battling bullies – Turn to school counselors and other professionals for help,” MSNBC, April 22, 2004.
3. “The School Bully Can Take a Toll on Your Child’s Mental Health,” US Department of Health and Human Services – National Mental Health Information Center, December 1, 2004.
Trish Berg is an author, speaker and weekly columnist for The Daily Record Newspaper in Ohio. You can reach her at http://www.trishberg.com.