I’d like to address the topic question in four ways: (1) What school districts can do. (2) Things parents can do to inoculate their kids from bullying. (3) Steps to take when bullying happens and (4) Other tips.
What School Districts Can Do
Every school district should have an anti-bullying program. In this downloadable article, published in the American Psychologist, Dr. Catherine Bradshaw, of John Hopkins University, outlines the science on effective bullying prevention programs. I would suggest that this is a very helpful article for school administrators. Were I such an administrator I’d read this article, asking myself, “how does our bullying prevention program stack up?” And, “are there things we can do to improve what we do?”
Inoculating a Kid from Bullying
Kids who have well formed self-esteem seem to experience less bullying. According to research done by Dr. Chris Mruk, of Bowling Green State University, there appear to be two elements comprising self-esteem: a sense of worthiness and a sense of competence. I would argue that one way parents can promote worthiness is by doing special time each week. You can download a brief article on how to do special time here; or, see Chapter One of my parenting book for a more thorough review of the rationale and method. To learn about promoting competence, see Chapter Two of my parenting book, or enter the word “competence” in the search bar above for several brief blog posts on the topic.
What if My Kid is Bullied
This needs immediate action. The first thing to ascertain is whether you can have a productive discussion with the bullying kid’s parent(s). If there is a reasonable chance that that could be effective, I’d try that first. If not, or that fails, it would be time to have a discussion with the school principal, especially if the bullying has happened on school grounds (but even if it doesn’t). Principals, for instance, can make it more clear to the kid doing the bullying that he will face serious consequences if the behavior persists. Other things to do:
- Coach your kid to travel from place-to-place at school with one or more friends. It’s harder to get picked on when you’re in a group.
- Arrange for a sleep-over or party at your house, even considering inviting the kid who is doing the bullying, if things haven’t escalated too much that is. The more successful your kid’s social network is the better.
- Double down on the self-esteem promoting interventions I reviewed in the previous section.
- Seek out an evaluation from a good child mental health professional. This is not something I would wait on. As I reviewed in last week’s blog article, the stakes are just too high. For a referral, click here.
√ Partnering with your local PTA can be a very helpful step. They can help you to develop strategies as well as partner with the school about bullying prevention programming, including bringing in a speaker for the kids.
√ Talking with the parents of your kid’s friends can sometimes be a good idea, as they are in a position to coach their kids on how to be helpful.
√ If your kid is bullied online, consider becoming more engaged with him about his online presence (you can find information about this in the monitoring chapter of my parenting book and scattered throughout this blog site.)
√ Even if your kid isn’t a victim of bullying, I’d bring up the topic. You might ask:
- What has he witnessed?
- What has she experienced?
- What are his thoughts about bullying?
- What can she do if she witnesses it?
- Does he have any ideas about how to promote an anti-bullying climate at school?
√ Finally, there are a plethora of good bullying resources you can find on the internet. It’s not hard to find them, just be sure that the website belongs to a reputable organization or authority.