Chances are roughly 50/50 that your child will be bullied at school this year. Chances are even greater that your child is witnessing bullying behaviors each week and half of kids admit that they've been "mean" to someone on-line. In other words, your child is frequently experiencing the stress and anxiety that bullying behaviors create whether your child is the target, the bully or the bystander.
The bully, of course, is the one who launches the verbal or physical attack. The target is the focus of the attack. The bystander witnesses the attack and either stands by in silence, joins in the attack or intervenes to stop it. On a given day, your child could play any, or all, of these roles.
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As parents, we have to teach our children what to do it they are the target of the attack or witness bullying because they have a powerful role they can play. Here are six steps to help "bullyproof" your child.
1. Define what bullying is. Ask your kids how they would describe a bully. It's important that your children knows that bullying can cause physical harm and emotional harm. Many schools have rules in place about physical aggression. Few schools have guidelines about "emotional aggression," however, which is the type of bullying that more kids face, particularly in middle school and high school.
Here are two definitions of bullying that you may want to share with your child:
- Bullying is when one youth (or several youth) use physical violence, verbal taunts, threats or intimidation to control or hurt others on a regular basis.
Then, tell them about a subset of bullying called "emotional aggression". Here's a definition to share for this:
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- "When girls and boys use relationships to hurt each other and find ways to exclude a person from making friends or keeping friends. It can include sarcasm, rolling eyes, pitting friends against one another, being a friend one day and not the next, laughing at others, excluding and isolating people, spreading rumors and gossip and name calling." (Source: Sister to Sister: The Darker Side of Friendship, Girl Scouts of the USA.)
A UCLA study indicated that kids experience just as much pain from emotional aggression as physical aggression. So, it's important to acknowledge that repeated mean comments and gestures shouldn't be tolerated.
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