Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Coping with School Bullies

Schools will always have certain personalities - the highly intellectual geek, the extra perky cheerleader and the lunch money stealing bully.  I wasn’t any of the three even though I resembled the nerd at 98 pounds and thick glasses.   Although I would have loved the affection of a perky cheerleader, it was the attention of the bullies I received.  I can remember their names and cocky personalities as they never picked on anyone more than half their size and quite often I have visions of them dying a gruesome death in prison.  This was one of the reasons I took up writing, so that my enemies could die the way I wanted them to.  It was a great outlet that has paid off quite well.

School should be an exciting time in a child’s life.  However, fear of facing a bully can make it the place he fears the most.  I know, because I spent almost my entire ninth grade year hiding around corners and dreading physical education.  Something was going to happen sooner or later and it was my goal for it to always be later.  I never understood bullies or why it was funny to harass a kid half your size that wasn’t bothering you one bit.  Yet, bullies have always existed and I don’t see them vanquishing the scene any time soon.

  “It is estimated that in the average school an incident of bullying occurs every seven minutes” to “one out of every four schoolchildren.”  As a parent, there are a few things you can do to help your child face the challenge of dealing with a bully besides taking a 2x4 to the thug’s skull.

Take it seriously - Often adults ignore a child’s complaints believing them to be childhood antics and a part of growing up.  This is not a rite of passage that should be tolerated or ignored as bullying can lead to some tragic circumstances.  For starters, a victim of bullying can often suffer depression, physical ailment, and poor performance in school.  To the extreme, bullying has led students to take matters into their own hands and people have been shot while going for lunch in the cafeteria.  A child needs someone to understand and for the crime not to be swept under the rug.

Listen - When the child starts complaining about being picked on get the entire story from him.  Be sensitive, not interrupting or making jokes about it.   Trust me, it’s not a laughing matter.  Then, wait a day or two and hear the story again.  By then the child’s emotions will not be as raw and things may be seen more clearly and perhaps differently.  Kids tease each other as do adults and sometimes feelings get hurt.  This is not bullying, however, and needs to be handled differently.  Show your child you care and take it seriously by giving him or her a listening ear.

Pay attention, as well.   As you ask about their day and activities, listen for criticisms of other students, which may be clues that a bigger issue is at hand.  Your child may not want to tell you, but an observant parent will know that being in the clinic every day at the same time may mean there are bigger issues.

Ask questions - Children want to be self-reliant with their problems.  They also want their parents’ approval and, therefore, may be embarrassed to share what’s really going on at school.  I never wanted my dad, a hero in my eyes, to know he had a wimp for a son.  Furthermore, they may fear a parent’s involvement will only make matters worse.  Having caught wind of one of the bullying episodes I endured on a regular basis, my mother called the principal of my middle school and in no uncertain terms and with plenty of colorful words told the man that if those miscreants laid another hand on her precious boy again she was going to go down to that school and blow it up brick by brick with his fat ass sitting in the middle of it.  Of course, nowadays a threat like that will land a parent behind bars, but back then it got me escorted through the halls between classes.  Before making threats of bodily harm, however, ask your child how they want you to help. 

Get involved - If the problem persists, then it is time for parental action.  After all, the physical safety of your child is more important than their fragile reputation.  With the child visit the teacher or principal to make the school aware of the situation.  Always make the child part of the process.  As they hear the administrator’s advice they can select a comfortable solution that works for them.

School should be a fun time.  A parent can help take the fear out by helping the child cope with bullies, by being a shoulder as well as a set of compassionate ears.  Bullies exist; they’re a part of the school experience.  However, they don’t need to be.  Help your child put an end to this rite of passage.

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