Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

If each one of us untangled one string at a time...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Want to Help a Bullied Child? Be the One Go-To Adult

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Here's a gift. Free. Just for you and the children in your care, whether it's at school, at home or in an after-school program, on the field, or in the art or music room.

One of the top pieces of advice from bullying prevention experts to children who feel bullied is to "tell a trusted adult."

Question is, although we want to help, can we actually be trusted to do or say the right thing? We can't be too hard on ourselves. It's a tricky subject even for trained counselors. But it's a child's self-esteem at risk so it's worth a try.

Award-winning author of One, Kathryn Otoshi, and I, came up with the Be the One Go-To Adult campaign. You can learn more and download a Be the One Go-To Adult Certificate and Congratulatory Letter from Tangled Ball.

We've also asked experts in different fields to give the best advice they have to help adults do the right thing.

Dr. Amanda Nickerson, Director of the Jean M. Alberti Center for the Prevention of Bullying Abuse and School Violence, shares her top 5 tips:

LISTEN in an accepting and active manner. Adults often think that listening is not doing anything, but really listening, without interrupting, is often immensely helpful on its own. Thank the child for talking to you, as this was likely very difficult.

CONVEY EMPATHY AND CONCERN – reflect on how upsetting this must have been and how sorry you are to hear that they had this experience.

PROBLEM-SOLVE NEXT STEPS – what would be most helpful for the child? In some cases, active intervention is needed to ensure the child's safety; the child may also need help developing coping skills to prevent the situation from happening again or coping with it if it does – this is not intended to put all the emphasis on the target, but the reality is that it may happen again and just saying to kids "it's not your fault" may take away their sense of having any control over it. Seeking out the support of peers can be critical so that kids are not alone in facing someone bullying him/her.

CONTACT THE SCHOOL – the school needs to know what is happening so that action can be taken to deal with the bullying behavior. Document and provide specific details about where it is occurring and who is involved (including staff witnessing it). Realize that schools can't possibly see and know about all incidents, so avoid placing blame on the school. Rather, have a dialogue about what can be done to protect your child, while advocating strongly for your child. Realize that schools may not be able to tell you what they will do to discipline the other child. Partner with the school but if you do not receive a timely and/or satisfactory response, be persistent and realize you have other options (law enforcement, etc.).

FOLLOW-UP – with your child, with the school…keep tabs on what is happening and what you can do to help.

Thanks, Dr. Nickerson. This makes you a Go-To Adult.

1 comment:

  1. I've not dealt with bullies but it seems to me that the greatest ally is in the peers. Parents and schools should teach kids to stand UP for students they see being bullied. How weak and ignorant and not-cool it is to bully. I'm thinking of a Little House episode in which all the kids finally band together against the school bully.