By Elaine Wilson, AFPS
Aug. 19, 2009
My 5-year-old son came home from school in tears one day because a boy in his class had been calling him names. My first impulse was to tell him to call the boy names back. Not the most mature or effective approach, I’m sure, but I was at a loss. I’d never confronted this type of issue as a mom.
The incident hurt his feelings, but it could have been much worse. Each school year, horrific stories appear in the news: kids are beaten up on school buses or in hallways, and, in the worst cases, some are beaten to death.
Bullying is a pervasive issue. According to a Military OneSource fact sheet, an estimated 160,000 children miss school every day out of fear or intimidation by other students. Bullied children may suffer from depression, loneliness, low self-esteem or fear of going to school.
As for students who bully, there is a strong correlation between bullying other students during school and legal or criminal problems later in life. According to a government study, 60 percent of boys who were bullies in grades 6 through 9 were convicted of at least one crime as adults.
The new school year may be just weeks, or days, away, but it’s never too early to figure out a plan of attack — not the physical kind, of course, but a way to equip your kids with the tools they need to prevent or deal with bullying. And it’s a good idea to learn how to recognize the signs of bullying or, if your child turns out to be the tormentor, how to put a stop to it.
Here are some tips from the National Education Association:
Five Ways to Handle a Bully
1. Stay calm and alert. Consider the options and do nothing to escalate the situation.
2. Walk away. Fighting isn’t worth it. You do not have to prove yourself by fighting.
3. Take a nonviolent stand. Speak respectfully: “I don’t want to fight you.”
4. Report it to authorities, but discuss with them how you will be protected from retaliation.
5. Get away. Find safety or call for help.
For those of you who have dealt with this issue, please pass on your tips and experiences. I’m hoping, with some help, the next time my 5-year-old comes home crying, I’ll have a better response then, “Well, just kick him back!”
Here are a few helpful links:
Military OneSource, www.militaryonesource.com has several fact sheets on this topic. You need to fill out a one-time registration form before you can do a search.
The ABCs of School Bullying
Parents’ Role in Bullying and Intervention