In the past 10 years or so, awareness and education regarding bullying has risen significantly. Today, countless clubs, forums, and materials exist, each detailing how to prevent bullying and how to support those who have experienced it. However, there is one glaring gap in this abundance of resources: support for the parents of bullies.
Guidelines exist for how to handle a child that bullies, but actual support or advice for parents of bullies is rare to find. In an article written by Alissa Marquess for her blog Creative With Kids, the author talks about the shame and helplessness that come with parenting an angry child. Though her child wasn’t a bully, he was still displaying less than ideal behavior, so it would be reasonable to believe that Alissa’s feelings might be similar to those of parents of children who bully. The number one response to the article?
“I’m so glad I’m not alone”
Parenting isn’t easy in the best of situations and when your child is bullying, it can make you feel as though there is nowhere to turn where you will not be judged or accused of being a bad parent. If bullying is going to end for good, though, we must realize that it is a two-sided issue and begin to create resources to help both of those sides. We must create a safe environment for everyone to discuss their issues openly and without fear of judgment. To get the ball rolling, here are some things to remember if you are the parent of a child who bullies:
1.You are not a bad parent
Hearing your child has been bullying others brings on a wave of questions and emotions. “MY child?? He/she would never act that way!” “How could I have missed this behavior?” “What did I do wrong?” “How could I not see he/she was hurting? ”The reality is, though some bullies learn the behavior at home, bullying has multiple causes, many of which are hidden, easily missed, and triggered only while in a school environment. A child who is helpful and kind at home, around those he trusts, may act very differently when placed in a stressful school environment.
Additionally, the causes of your child’s bullying behavior may be issues which call for the help of a professional to unravel. This doesn’t mean you have failed, it only means you need help, and there is no shame in that. The key is to do something about the situation once you become aware of it. Talk to your child and talk with teachers and counselors. Together you can understand why your child is bullying and work through those issues for the future.
4. Talk regularly
This includes conversations with teachers, other parents, and students, in addition to making regular conversation with your child. Bullying is a complex issue and to fully understand why your child is bullying and to ensure it does not happen again, it will be necessary to keep in communication with those who are with your child when you aren’t.
3. Bullying behavior CAN be changed
Despite what many Hollywood films would lead us to believe, your child is not doomed to be a bully for the rest of his or her life. Though some of the personality traits that may lead to bullying, such as aggression or narcissism, will always be present, they do not have to control your child’s life or actions. Aggression and other traits can be managed, children can be taught to recognize when their behavior is becoming harmful, and coping mechanisms can be put into place. Other root causes of bullying, such as loneliness, abuse at home, or need for popularity can be identified and minimized or eliminated. Let your child know that you are there for him and that he will never have to face his struggles alone.
Additionally, don’t forget to find someone you can trust to talk to about yourself. Find a friend, spouse, or confidant who will listen to your struggles without judgment or start a support group for parents of children who bully or have behavioral issues. Not only will you gain access to a wealth of knowledge and advice, you will learn that you are not alone and you don’t have to suffer in silence.
5. Be realistic. Understand there will likely be setbacks and be patient
People can change, but this rarely happens over night. Your child will likely still exhibit bullying behavior off and on while they get used to handling their issues in a healthy manner. While bullying should never be justified, it’s important to be patient with your child and not write him or her off as a “bad kid”. Children have an incredible ability to rise or fall to the bars we set for them.
When setbacks do occur, address the situation immediately. Talk through what happened with your child. Discuss what the other person did, what your child did, why they did it, how they think it made others feel, how it made them feel, and how they could have behaved differently. Make it a point to have your child genuinely apologize to the person they bullied. It won’t be an easy journey, but the destination will be well worth the effort.
6. You are not alone
It may seem that it is you and your child against the world, but the reality is, any good school wants to help all children, including those who bully, to become good, happy, and successful adults. Be open with your child’s teachers and ask them to help you develop a plan to stop the bullying behavior. Chances are, they will be grateful for your willingness to be involved and you will benefit from their support and experience.
No one wants to shout their problems to the world, so it can often seem as though you are the only one struggling, but it simply isn’t true. Whether it’s bullying or something else, every child and every parent is dealing with something. The important thing to remember is, while we are all struggling, we don’t need to struggle alone. By putting aside anger, shame, and judgment, we can all work together to create a better world for our children and better children for our world.
Are you the parent of a child who bullies? What advice do you have for other parents? Let us know in the comments!
A New Year, A New Approach to Bullying Prevention: How Setting Small Goals Can Make A BIG Difference-Part II
Last week we talked about a quote from Stephen Covey and how it can be applied to bullying prevention. Covey stated: “If you want to achieve something you’ve never achieved before, you have to do something you’ve never done before.” In the past 15 years, we have seen an encouraging increase in awareness of the true dangers of bullying. However, bullying continues to be a significant problem in schools today. In last week’s post, I posed the question: can Covey’s theory be applied to bullying prevention? If we approach bullying in a new way, would we see new results? I believe the answer is YES.
It’s not uncommon for schools to set goals for their students, including the goal to END BULLYING! This is a noble, if not large, goal. However, it’s somewhat vague. Though they’re young, children can and should set BIG goals, but it’s important that we help them to break those larger goals down into smaller, measurable short term goals. To help get you on your way to achieving things you’ve never achieved before, this week I will be sharing 6 specific, measureable goals to creating a bully free environment!
1. The Goal: A Word A Day
This may sound simple and perhaps even cliché, but words truly have incredible power. Set the goal to say one kind thing to someone each day. Encourage students to use their words of kindness on someone they don’t know very well and to think outside the box, going beyond external compliments, such as “I like your shoes!” Of course, such compliments are always lovely to receive, but we want to raise children that are able to see a multitude of good qualities in their peers, not only what’s on the outside
As a class, come up with a list of unique compliments, such as “you are kind”, “you were brave today when you volunteered to solve that problem in front of the class”, “You have good taste in books” or “you have a great imagination”.
The Measurement: There are many ways to measure progress on this goal and, depending on the time you have available and the learning style of your students, you can choose one or all of them. For visual learners, create a word board where students can write words of kindness they spoke or received. If you want to keep things more anonymous, or would just like to get into more detail, have your students write in a journal for 10 minutes (or however much time you can set aside) reflecting on the progress of their goal. You can write back to them and guide them as they move forward. If you are short on time (and who isn’t??), you could do something as simple as have a checklist of daily goals, including speaking a word of kindness, that students fill out at the end of the day. Meet with students one on one occasionally to chat about how they’re doing and how they can improve.
2. The Goal: Including others
It’s easy to stick with the same group of people, but this can sometimes leave others left out and alone. Set the goal to include someone new in at least one activity each week. This could be as simple as inviting someone to sit at the lunch table or could go as far as inviting a new friend over to play. To keep students accountable and avoid getting lost in a sea of vagueness, have your children write down a specific activity at the beginning of the week. It can be the same for the whole class or vary by individual.
The Measurement: Depending on the age of your students, this is a great opportunity to explore their creativity and integrate some other subject lessons along the way. Younger children could draw a picture of their experience while older students could write it out in story fashion, practicing writing and storytelling skills.
Keeping a journal is also always useful to track progress while simultaneously building writing skills. Encourage students to write about their expectations for new experience beforehand and then reflect on the actual experience later, comparing and contrasting the reality to the belief. This is a fantastic exercise to reveal some of our preconceived notions and to help students learn that there is usually more to most people than meets the eye.
3. The Goal: Thinking about words and their effects
We’ve all experienced that moment where we said something out of hurt or anger without really thinking. We’ve probably all been on the receiving end of that experience, as well. Set the goal as a class to become more mindful of the words that we say and the effect that they have on others. If you feel like getting creative, make bracelets as a class and wear them as a reminder to think before speaking.
The Measurement: As with the previous goals, keeping a journal is a fantastic way to remain accountable and track progress. As they reflect on their days, encourage students to pay special attention to the words they spoke and received and to consider the effects of those words, as well as why they may have been spoken.
Since the goal is to become more aware of all words and their effects, encourage students to write down their observations of conversations outside of their own, as well as their personal interactions. What do characters on T.V. say? How do other characters react? How do the words of the characters affect the viewer? At the end of the journal entry, have students write down what they learned from the reflection and what they will do to make tomorrow’s interactions better. Are they becoming more aware of the power of words?
4. The Goal: Become an Upstander.
Studies show that bullying behavior ended within 10 seconds of peer intervention 56% of the time. Standing up to bullying lets the bully know his or her behavior is not ok, provides strength in numbers, and lets the victim know he or she is not alone. However, standing up can also be very scary. As a class, discuss why people might be afraid to take a stand against bullying and work through those fears.
After a while, I would encourage you to take parts of the script away. Provide lines for the bully, but have the victims and bystanders improvise their responses. At the end of the role play session, have students reflect on how they think they did and what they could have done differently. That is their goal for the next week.
The Measurement: Before beginning the above discussions and training, have students fill out a survey detailing whether or not they would stand up to a bully, how they might react to a bullying situation, and the reasoning behind their thoughts and actions. At intervals throughout the year, give the survey again and see what progress has been made. Do students feel more prepared? Are they exhibiting less fear? What areas still need improvement? At the end of each role-play session, have a short discussion to assess whether or not the students changed what they wanted to change from the previous week.
5. The Goal: Increasing Kindness.
This is a fun and simple one. Kindness is contagious and can go a surprisingly long way towards ending bullying. It’s a lot harder to be mean to someone who is consistently kind to you, and a child is less likely to bully when his or her emotional needs are being met. As a class, come up with a list of acts of kindness that can be achieved throughout the year. Some can be broad, such as opening the door for the person behind you, and some can be specific, such as choosing a random student in the class and bringing him or her a special treat or writing a kind note.
The Measurement: There are many ways to count your random acts of kindness. Here is an idea borrowed from the book Service Learning in the Pre K-3 Classroom, by Vickie E. Lake, Ph.D, and Ithel Jones, Ed.DA . Lake and Jones suggest drawing out goals to help younger children to visualize what they would like to accomplish. For example, on strips of paper, have the students draw a variety of random acts of kindness they would like to achieve. As they accomplish the acts, move the strip of paper from one side of the board to the other. At the end of each week, students can count how many goals have been met and create a paper chain with the strips. As the acts of kindness grow, so will the chain, providing a concrete measure of achievement.
6. The Goal: In My Shoes.
Bullying is sometimes the result of a lack of understanding or a lack of empathy. To build these skills, set the goal of learning more about everyone in the classroom by the end of year. One way to do this is to name a “student of the week” (or student of the day, depending on how many students you need to get through or the length of your school year). The goal of the week is to learn more about that student by the end of the week than you did at the beginning. Set a goal of how many new things the class should learn about that student. Throughout the week, students may ask the student of the week questions to get to know him or her better.
Encourage students to sit with the student of the week at lunch or play together at recess. To avoid bombarding that student, be sure to set boundaries such as: no swarming the student of the week, no talking during class time, etc. For shyer students, interactions could take place through letters, as well. Encourage the children to learn through observation as well as conversation. For example, “I observed Sophie during recess and learned that she is very good at kickball.” Make it clear that all observations and interactions are to be kind and be on the lookout for any negative interactions.
The Measurement: Provide students with a sheet of paper with two columns. One column will be labeled “What I know about BLANK” and the other “What I want to know about BLANK”. At the end of the week, write the new observations on the board and count them up. Did you reach your goal?
Though some of these ideas may seem unrelated to bullying, remember that we are trying to break the abstract “end bullying” into more tangible, concrete goals that will create habits of kindness so that bullying is no longer a go-to action for children. These goals strive to dig in and address the root causes of bullying as well as to instill habits of kindness and spirits of empathy. A good deal of bullying occurs in schools, right under the noses of teachers. We want to train children that will choose kindness, even when there are no rules telling them they have to.
As you work through these goals with your students or children, help them to understand how these smaller, short term goals can help them to reach a larger, long term goal. In addition to the measurement tools outlined above, there are many more fun, creative ways to do this! You can create charts, timelines, or even use computer programs to track your progress. Students could use observation, surveys, interviews, and a variety of other techniques to learn if their short term goals are helping them to reach their long term one.
Would you try these goals in your classroom? What new approaches to bullying prevention would you like to try in the new year? How will you measure progress? Let us know in the comments!
A New Year, A New Approach to Bullying Prevention: How Setting Small Goals Can Make A Big Difference- Part I
"If you want to achieve goals you've never achieved before, you have to do things you've never done before."
This is a quote by author and motivational speaker, Stephen Covey. To me, this quote embodies the spirit of the New Year. If you’re like most people, each year you develop a list of goals to achieve in the coming new year and, like most people, you set aside at least half of those goals by February. This regression is often chalked this up to busyness and this is certainly part of the problem; however, I would argue that the bigger culprit is routine.
When busyness kicks in, it becomes easier to stick with what we know. Upon re-entering the “real world”, we naturally fall back into our real world routines. Don’t get me wrong—routines can be great. They create efficiency and help us get things done. However, as Stephen Covey implied, routine will not create change. If we want to achieve something new, we have to do something new. The same truth applies to bullying prevention.
These new actions don’t need to be big. In fact, when setting goals with younger children, experts urge you NOT to make goals too big. At least, not initially. In a podcast for the parenting website, Kids In the House, psychologist Edwin A. Locke states that children should absolutely set goals for anything they want to achieve, but it’s important to break larger goals down into smaller, incremental goals. According to Locke, it’s also essential to track goals through measurement and to set deadlines for achievement. Because young children are still in a concrete state of learning, parents and teachers should provide consistent and visual benchmarks and evaluations of progress. Dr. Lock emphasizes:
“Make sure the goal is clear, make sure the goal has a deadline and that you measure your progress”.
These expert tips inspire the question: is it possible that this incremental goal setting is also key to ending bullying? Perhaps one reason why 25% of students are still being bullied is partially due to having too broad of goals in school. We tell children they need to “end bullying” and, while we provide them with some tools to achieve this large goal, we rarely, if ever, provide small, incremental goals that can be seen and measured to help reach that long term goal. If we, as adults, find bullying a complex issue, how must it appear to a child?
Telling children to “end bullying” is vague, but encouraging them to “Say hello to someone new in the hallway each day this week” is specific and it’s measureable. Better yet, these are goals that can be set and tracked throughout the year, not just during Bullying Prevention Month, and that is really one of our overarching goals. We want kindness to become a lifestyle so that bullying isn’t even in our kids’ vocabulary.
We want to create a habit of kindness.
January brings a new year and a new semester to begin making changes in our routines that may ultimately change our lives. If we want to see bullying stomped out like never before, we must venture to try things we’ve never tried before. Check back here next week for some specific, measureable goals to help you and your children to reach the ultimate goal: Ending Bullying Forever!!
What's something new you want to try this year? Let us know in the comments!
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