Twenty five per cent of Canadian public schools report that bullying among kids occurs on a daily basis and twenty two per cent of Canadian youth admit to being bullied at least once in their lifetime according to Public Safety Canada and a Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet) study.
Bullying can take on many forms including name calling, spreading rumours, physical abuse and vandalizing property. It can occur in person, through writing or on the Internet (known as cyber-bullying) through online chat rooms, email and social media networks. A bully’s main goal is to intimidate or hurt their victims through aggressive behaviour that is meant to overpower. Their actions can have long-term psychological consequences and, as recent news stories have revealed, can result in tragedy.
Bullying is unacceptable, and thankfully awareness and prevention is becoming the norm with many communities and schools taking a very public anti- bullying stance through media campaigns and education. But while these actions are helping to bring this critical issue to light, bully prevention should ultimately begin at home.
What can you do to bully proof your kids?
Keep Communication Open – Regularly ask your kids questions about their day, show an interest in who they’re friends with and start discussions through activities like reading age-appropriate books about bullying. Books like The Hero in Me by Susan Fitzsimonds or Leave Me Alone by Kes Gray are excellent for elementary school-aged children.
Use Positive Discipline – Your discipline methods send a strong message to your kids. For example, spanking can lead kids to believe that physical aggression is a normal way to respond to interpersonal problems and yelling is a standard way to communicate feelings of anger. Practice positive discipline strategies like time outs and redirection instead.
Teach Social Skills – A sense of belonging and high self esteem are leading bully deterrents. Kids who lack the social skills to form healthy, strong friendships may be seen as easy targets for bullies because they may come across as vulnerable and desperate for peer acceptance. Teach your kids social skills through role playing and showing a good example with your own relationships.
Teach Them to Walk Away – Bullies are powerless without an audience. It’s therefore important to let kids know that walking away is not only OK, but it should be the first action they take in response to a bully. Role play with your kids to get them into the habit of walking away from situations where they are called names or threatened.
Consider Martial Arts – Signing your kids up for a martial arts class such as Karate or Kung Fu will not only provide them with the tools to defend themselves if needed, but will also give them the confidence to solve problems, speak up for themselves and make new supportive friends.
Educate About Online Safety – Teach your kids that anything they share online could get into the hands of someone who may not have good intentions. Things they shouldn’t share online include their address, phone number, social insurance number and photos they might regret later. For more about Internet safety, visit the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Monitor Online Activity – Monitor what your kids are doing online by being “friends” with them on their social networking sites and allowing Internet use to take place on a shared family computer.
It may be difficult to protect our kids from bullies, but as parents, we can help deter the effects of potential bullying by providing them with the right tools and skills to protect themselves now and into adulthood