This month is National Bullying Prevention Month. As a principal, have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying. I decided to address this issue because parents need to be aware of bullying and the devastating impact it can have on children.
HERE ARE A FEW TIPS TO COMBAT BULLYING
- Have a serious conversation with your child about bullying. Physical bullying increases in elementary school and peaks in middle school. If your child is being bullied he/she should report it immediately to the principal or assistant principal. It is imperative to correct the situation before it gets out of control.
- Students love to quote the phrase, “Snitches get stitches.” When someone is planning to cause harm to another person it needs to be reported immediately. This is not snitching. This is saving someone’s life. Teaching students to discern when to tell and when not to tell can be challenging. They need to know that they are helping a victim in a situation that could result in tragedy.
- Cyberbullying is when kids bully one another through electronic devices. The bully posts mean messages, emails, spreads rumors, and posts embarrassing pictures of the person. If this is happening to your child, document the activity and print all messages. This documentation will be necessary when you report the offense to the proper authorities.
- The effects of bullying can be traumatic. Students who are bullied are at risk of suicide and it is important for them to obtain support. According to the Centers for Disease Control, students who are bullied are more likely to experience low self-esteem and isolation, have few friends, perform poorly in school, have headaches or stomach aches, experience anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and depression. There are children who have committed suicide which is why it is important to have a great level of communication with your children.
- Teach your child compassion and empathy. Talk to them about the way they like to be treated and how they like to feel. Then discuss how they do not like to be treated and how that feels.
- If your child witnesses bullying they should not laugh or escalate the situation. Bystanders are either a part of the problem or a part of the solution. They have the power to use problem solving strategies to stop bullying.
- If your child is the bully, examine what is going on in your home environment or try to find the root cause of why your child is behaving this way. Think about your actions and how you communicate with people. Parents are their child’s first teacher and they are watching what you say and do. They need to know the seriousness of the situation and know that consequences will be given for their behavior.
Parents, please be sure to ask your child about their day and be specific about asking if someone is bothering them or making them feel uncomfortable. No child should live in fear while attending school.
Shanessa Fenner is an elementary principal and has also been a middle school principal. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, two master’s degrees in elementary education and school administration, and a doctorate in educational leadership. She also received the North Carolina Principal Fellows Scholarship. This piece originally appeared with Education Post.