Dealing with Bullies
Updated: Mar 24, 2019
Dealing with Bullies: How Fathers Can Help
It's not very often that the signs of bullying become obvious. Torn clothing, missing toys or other personal stuff, unexplained cuts and bruises, are all signs of traditional, physical bullying that, as a father, is a huge red flag that tells you that something is wrong. However, the majority of bullying leaves very little obvious traces. After all, it's not like children and teenagers come up to the dinner table saying, "These kids at school are being mean and are bullying me and I'm feeling really unhappy because of it."
While it helps that educational institutions and society as a whole are starting to recognize the problem, with many actually doing something about it, bullying remains a concern. Even worse, only a fraction of students report being bullied. This is why many parents are unaware about the kind of problems that their children are going through, especially at school.
As a father, there's nothing else you want more than to keep your kid's safe and away from harm. But, you can't exactly be there for them every minute of the day now, can you?
At school, your child is on his or her own. However, at home, you can watch out for these common signs and symptoms of children who are dealing with bullies:
Refusal to go to school
Frequent stomachaches and headaches, mostly from stress and from not eating much if at all, especially while in school
Constant mood swings
Difficulty falling asleep, nightmares, and inability to focus while at school
Changes to their usual sleeping habits
Generally appearing sad or lonely with no apparent cause
Going out of their way to avoid interaction with their peers
Always being alone at school
Feelings of worthlessness and helplessness
Genuine fear of riding the bus
Poor school performance
Openly talking about "wanting to die" or saying things like "no one would care if I died"
Of course, not all of these are signs of bullying. Sometimes, they can be a symptom of something differently entirely, if not worse.
Either way, as a father, it's important that you know what you should do if you suspect your child is dealing with bullies.
Do Not Assume Anything
It's very common for parents to try and make their children (the victim) feel like they are the ones that caused the problem, as if they probably haven't thought about that already. Victims of bullying do enough self-blaming already that doing this will only make things worse, which is probably why a lot of them don't even bother telling their parents, or at least, only tried doing so once.
If your child comes to you and tells you that he or she is being bullied, try to avoid assuming anything. Instead, just let your child talk and be ready to listen with an open mind. What your child needs the most at this particular moment is your unconditional love and support as their parent.
Avoid Meeting the Other Kids(s)
You probably don't need to be told not to meet the bullies yourself, but just in case you ever thought about, don't. Just don't. It won't help any bit. Neither does arranging a meeting with the aggressor's parent/s. All this does is to make things awkward and uncomfortable for both kids. It might even only make bullying worse. Not only that, but it can also break the trust between you and your children, making them less likely to open up about bullying to you in the future.
Once you hear that your son or daughter is dealing with bullies, your first reaction will probably be to get angry or overreact. But, remember, that's exactly what the bullies want. And even though you're not exactly the victim here, how you react will shape how your child reacts to bullying as well.
So, take a deep breathe, and calm down. Sit down with your child and hear what your child has to say about the bullying situation.
Work With Your Child
First things first, when your child comes up to you and tells you that he or she is dealing with bullies, don't tell them to retaliate. This can only make things worse and is actually quite counter-intuitive as it only serves to send the message that violence is the answer.
Instead, teach your child about confidence; how they can look, walk, and talk like a confident person. Talk to your child about non-verbal cues like how to stand proud, smiling more often, maintaining eye contact with people, and other things that your child can adopt so that he or she looks and becomes a more confident person who is less likely to be perceived as a target of bullies.
Also, talk to your child about how to react when being bullied. Work out ways that may or may not work. You can even let your child come up with solutions on her own. One very effective solution is to encourage your child to make friends with other people. Even if it's only one or two other people, bullying is less likely to happen to children who aren't always on their own.
Other strategies like role playing and teaching your child to count to ten or take deep breaths and not reacting to bullying can help make them less of a target in eyes of a bully.
Identify a Safeplace
Every child needs to know that they have a "safeplace" at school that they can go to for help; a place or preferably, a person that they can trust.
Of course, this should be you. You should be your child's safe place. You can provide this by actively listening and communicating with them. However, since you can't exactly be with them all the time, you can talk to your child about going to a teacher if in case he or she gets bullied.
On a similar note, if your child brings up bullying at school to you, try to find out what the school's policy is on bullying and tell your child's teacher as well. They most likely are equipped to handle situations like this.
Talk to the Teacher
While you definitely should avoid talking to the aggressor's parents, you might want to talk to their teacher or the school itself. If you already did, that's good. If you haven't, then you might want to do so as soon as you can.
Dealing with bullies might be a part of maturing, and your child will learn a lot from handling his or her own social situations. But, once the bullying starts becoming worse and putting your child's physical, as well as mental health in danger, then it's time to tell the teachers.
Stay professional in your interactions. Make it clear with the school and their staff that you want to work with them to find a solution.
Don't forget to document every step that you took to inform the school of the bullying that your child is being subject to. In extreme cases, you can contact local authorities, or you can also consider transferring schools with your child's permission.
Teach Your Child Perspective
Giving your child some perspective on the situation might help him or her develop a better understanding of why he or she is getting bullied and that it is of no fault of his or her own.
For example, teaching your child that the bully might come from a tough situation and that's why he or she lacks self-control and discipline will teach your child compassion. Who knows, the next time the bully tries to go aggressively at your child, he or she will feel less like a victim, and might actively take pity on the bully.
You can also practice bullying scenarios while playing with your child at home or in the playground or when your child is watching TV or reading books. Make it a point that you talk to your child about what happened and what the best way to respond to the situation is. It doesn't matter how the character in the book or movie responded. What's important is that you took the opportunity to use a random moment to teach something to your child.
Encourage Your Child to Stand Up
If your child is no longer a victim of bullying, then encourage him or her to stand up for others and not to stand by when he or she sees bullying going on around her.
Bullying is and will always be a fact of life. It builds character and teaches kids how to handle situations on their own. Unfortunately, it's not always healthy. When bullying becomes too much and is not dealt with properly, it can cause long-term emotional damage. All kinds of bullying, whether in the form of physical, verbal, or emotional, are equally harmful to mental health.
Extreme bullying can even lead to children suffering from anxiety and depression, as well as suicidal thoughts. In worse cases, excessive bullying can manifest as PTSD in former victims as adults later on in life. It is not something that should just be taken lightly.
If your child ever comes to you and tells you that he or she is dealing with bullying at school, just remember what you read and you should do just fine.