I did the following interview with Robin Young of the Children & Youth Expert Circle of Respect Initiative and National Crime Prevention Council on bullying. Please see her interesting insights below:
1. What should parents do when their child has been both a victim and bully in a situation? How do you discipline but also console?
It is so easy for a child to be a victim of bullying one day and then exhibit bullying behavior the next day. The first thing a parent must do is have an open discussion with their child. Empathize with the feelings they must have had when being victimized and help them learn to have empathy for the victim of their bullying behavior.
Before you determine if discipline is necessary, try to get to the root of the bullying situation. Make sure your child knows that the bullying stops here and now. Do not let the situation escalate any further. Through our research with children and teens, they tell us that they often engage in bullying behaviors because they think it is funny, want revenge, or want to improve their “social standing” by picking on someone else. It is important that we as parents and caregivers help them find more constructive ways to deal with the wide variety of social situations they will face throughout their school age years.
As a parent you set the boundaries and expectations for your child on a daily basis. This situation is no different. Talk about the behavior you expect from your child and what they should not do or engage in.
Ask for help from a school guidance counselor or trusted teacher to in show your child about positive conflict resolutions skills. Those skills will come in handy in this situation and for the rest of your child’s life.
2. Many parents and teens say they have read the traditional bullying literature and it simply doesn’t work. Do you think there are any myths about bullying that people are teaching, what should parents and teens avoid?
Myths may not be the appropriate word but there are sometimes techniques and approaches that work in one situation but not others. At NCPC we tell kids to stop, talk, and walk when dealing with a bullying situation. We also know that sometimes you have to try more than one approach to resolve the situation.
The main point here is that there is no cookie cutter option for dealing with bullying behavior. Each child and each aggressive situation is different. The available literature should be seen as a guideline for helping parents address the issue.
One of our books in the Circle of Respect online book club called Good-bye Bullying Machine actually deals with a non-traditional perspective on this issue. In the book author Allan Beane talks about both self empowerment and bystander involvement. These should be seen as two additional tools for every parents bullying toolbox. Rather than avoid certain literature, parents should be open to different ideas, tools, and approaches to help their child resolve the problem.
3. What are some things parents can do to prevent their kid from being bullied or becoming a bully other than general self-esteem and passion building activities?
Yes, it is important to build your child’s self-esteem and involve them in activities that help to boost their confidence because it can help them handle better a bullying situation they might encounter.
Talk to your child about respecting people for their differences. Remember that a person with respect for a classmate is less likely to bully that person or engage in cyberbullying or sexting. At NCPC we firmly believe that if we encourage respect we can have an impact on crime.
There are also some ways parents can try to prevent their child from being a bully. Set the rules for your child. Observe your child when interacting with other kids. If you see him or her bullying or doing something you don’t like, take your child aside and reinforce the positive behavior you expect.
Perhaps the most important thing a parent should do is model the behavior you want your children to follow. If they see you fighting or engaging in bullying with other adults, they learn by watching what you do.