When NOT to get involved
In this artice by Izzy Kaman the author asserts that current anti-bully laws don't work and that most of the time, telling on the bullies only amplifies the behavior - though this does not mean that bullying shouldn't be reported.
I know the feeling of helplessness when your child comes home from school and tells you they are being picked on. This has happened to my child more than once, and I debated on whether or not to call the school and talk to the teacher. It made sense to do this. It felt like the responsible, parental thing to do. But I had my own experience to bank on and I knew that it most likely would blow up in my childs face. He also begged me not to. I decided the best thing to do was to give him council at home, but not to intervene.
Often, we know when the attacks on our child are severe enough to warrant us to take action and go to the authorties. When there is physical abuse involved; when the emotional and verbal assault is so intense that our child no longer wishes to go to school (or wherever the bullying is occuring); when our child is largely outnumbered and being bullied by a group or even the entire student body; when our child begins to sink into a depression, expresses thoughts of harming themselves or others, etc. We know when it gets to that point that it has gone way too far. But how do we know when NOT to get involved? That can be a tough call.
When bullying is not severe. Not all bully/target relationships are severe enough to cause mental or emotional trauma. Kids tease eachother pretty regularly. If you go running to the school the first time (or everytime) your son or daughter is teased you're going to cause a lot more harm than good and may even turn your child into a regular target. Kids tease each other as a way of testing each others limits, testing their own power, and even as they jockey for social position in their peer group. For the most part, these minor instances of bullying will work themselves out and intervention prevents this from happening.
When your child asks you not to.If your child were to come to you and tell you he or she is being bullied, you can be glad that they trusted you enough to do so. They may be looking for guidance, comfort, or they may need you to get involved and act on their behalf. But if they ask you not to go to the other kids parents or the school, then don't. Not unless you fear your child is in actual danger. To go behind their back will destroy their trust in you with this particular matter and they will not come to you in the future - which can be very devastating in the case of a child who down the road, becomes visciously or relentlessly bullied. You want to do your best to remain a comfort and ally to your child during times when they feel others are against them.
When you're not sure it is a bully situation.Get all the facts before you jump on that telephone and start an irreversable chain of events. Sometimes kids get into arguments and have conflicts that they're not sure how to sort out. Sometimes a child may tell his parents that he is being called names, but is only telling his side of the story. One of the reasons adults are often reluctant to get involved in bully issues - is because it's not uncommon for kids to"cry bully". Maybe they don't even mean to, but anytime you listen to one side of an argument, particulary with kids, the child is likely to only tell what was said or done to them - and even exaggerate to a large degree - and make themselves out to be completely innocent.
When you have not yet exhausted other means of helping your child.There are many ways you can try to guide and advise and help your child before you go to the authorities (provided the bullying is not severe). Bolstering their self-confidence and teaching them to be verbally assertive can help. Stop and look at why your child is being teased - can that be remedied? I am not talking about feeding your childs insecurity by changing parts of themselves just because bullies pick on them, either, because that's just letting the bully win. But some kids get made fun of if they have poor hygeine (what kid doesn't go through a period of smelly armpits and orange teeth?) and things like that can surely be helped. There is a list of ways to help your child who is being bullied before contacting the school in this article - (How to Help a Child Who is Bullied.)
If you do decide to go to the school or whoever the authority is for the group that is harrassing your child, be sure that it is a situation worthy of so much attention. Regardess, here are a few tips if you choose to take this step.
The kid who was doing the bullying will undoubtedly find out that your child complained about them. Therefore it is imperetive to make sure your child will be insulated from this person should they choose to retaliate. You cannot assume the school is going to do this. Therefore it is important that you make your expectations clear and that separation (if possible is one of your key expectations.
Know what your expectations are before hand and have them ready. Going up to your childs school and demanding that they just fix it leaves a lot open. They may have their own ideas of what fixing the problem will entail. While most schools employ anti bully programs and have a standard order of business to conduct, I only offer this question. If they anti bully programs were effective, why is bullying in schools continuing to get worse? I believe much of the action taken by school officials is simply going through the motions. Even they know these new laws and regulations aren't doing much good, but its all they really can do at the moment.
Keep your emotions in check. Angry parents berating the teachers and princial does little and helps no one. Bullying a teacher or school official in order to MAKE them MAKE bullies leave your child alone is not only setting a bad precedence, it s just plain unhelpful and makes you look like the biggest bully of all.
While there is no magic solution, no easy button when it comes to helping our children learn to deal and relate to their peers, knowing what we are capable of, what we are responsible for, and and when to get involved *or not, can help us become more effective teachers to our children. The best way for children to learn to deal with uncomfortable or hurtful peer relationships is through modeling diplomacy ourselves.
Banishing Bully Behavior by SuEllen Fried and Blanch Sosland
Protect Your Child from Bullying; by Allan L. Beane, Ph.D.
The Power of Validation; by Karyn D. Hall, Ph.D. and Melissa H. Cook, LPC
Have you ever been in a bully situation where an adult tried to help you but it only made it worse? Have you helped a child out of a bully situation? If so, how were you helpful?