When you send your child to a private day or boarding school, you might well assume that bullying is a non-issue. You have read the school's discipline code. You understand the consequences for major infractions of that discipline code. In the McCallie Student Handbook, "Hazing or mistreating another person, whether it is mental, physical, or emotional" is a major infraction. Private schools take discipline code infractions such as bullying, intimidation, harassment and so on, very seriously. Perhaps you still have concerns about what might happen if your child is bullied and nobody in the school community notices. Let's review five ways to protect your child from bullying.
Be able to identify the types of bullying.
Start by reading an informative article such as Sherri Gordon's 6 Types of Bullying Every Parent Should Know About If you grew up before computers and the internet flourished, you probably think that bullying is threatening somebody physically. But it is now much more than that. Bullying lurks in the digital corners of your child's online life. Learn about those dark spaces. Understand them. Talk about them with your child. Your child's well-being, indeed, her life, is at stake.
Know the warning signs of bullying.
Read Warning Signs of Bullying on Violence Prevention Works! I can speak from my personal experience because I was bullied when I was in 6th grade. What made it rough for me was that my neighbor across the street was the bullier. He was bigger than I. He sounded threatening. He cussed up a storm. Bookish little me was terrified. I tried to finesse any encounters by walking home before he left school. Because we lived in the city, we walked everywhere. Our parents didn't pick us up at school. We walked. While he never beat me up, he scared me. My self-esteem suffered. My eldest son also was bullied. In his case, an older boy regularly positioned himself at the entrance to the schoolyard and demanded cash to let the younger boys pass. In my case, my parents never discussed how to deal with a bully except to imply that somehow it was my fault. In my son's case, we explored the whole situation and offered suggestions as to how he could handle it. We supported our children in good times as well the tough times which life inevitably hurls at us.
That is why it is so important to be observant. Remember how cautious you were when your child was an infant? Frankly, nothing much has changed except her size. You cannot turn off your parental observation switch. Your reactions and support for her are critical in helping her deal with tough situations. Showing your trust and love as opposed to doubt and skepticism is an important confidence builder. Believe your child until you have explored all the angles to the situation. If you feel it necessary, arrange for counseling. Professional counselors have the experience and training to uncover what is going on. One final warning: absolutely do not ignore any of these warning signs. The last thing you want is for your child to feel so desperate that she commits suicide. Read Suicide in Teens and Children Symptoms & Causes from Boston Children's Hospital to understand the potential consequences of not dealing with bullying.
Monitor cellphone use.
Bullying has gone electronic. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Viber, and many more applications can be terrifying weapons for young people wanting to bully somebody. While private schools have strict rules against bullying as we noted above, you will have to be vigilant. You may think that monitoring her digital activity, whether it be on a smartphone or a tablet, but that's part of the job of parenting in the 21st century. When we were young, the bully hid out of sight somewhere on the school playground. Now she hides behind anonymous accounts on social media. Bahati Russell's article Cyber bullying and Social Media will give you an overview of how bullying on social media works.
Communicate with your child.
I totally get it. Communicating with your 2-year-old was fun, albeit exhausting. Communicating with your 14-year-old is a whole different matter when you allow it to be. I always swore that my late wife had earned a PhD. in parenting. She instinctively knew when to approve and to reprove. Underlying all her interactions with our four children was trust. They knew she trusted them. As a result, she was their best friend. So when a crisis occurred, as it always seems to do with teenagers, she would handle the situation calmly and expeditiously. Then, a few hours later, she would announce that the child in question and she were going shopping. That was code for "I will have the kid in the car with me for an hour or so." Whatever the crisis had been, it was old news by the time mother and child returned home. Listen. Trust. Trust. Listen.
Be situationally aware.
Personally, I have found that this is the most difficult way to protect my child from bullying. I have to work hard to be aware of what's going on around me. I suppose many parents who are introverts or creative types also find this difficult. Take time to observe. Look around. Listen to what's going on or, for that matter, what's not going on. Read the experts speaking in Bullying Prevention and Coping Strategies If anything, they will help you identify ways to prevent bullying.
You know that bullying is not an activity confined solely to the teenage years. During my long career, I encountered several employers who were bullies. While they never laid a finger on me, they said and did things which I know interpret as bullying. Because I had never faced bullying head-on in my youth, I can tell you that frankly, I didn't know how to cope with bullying as an adult. Don't do that to your child. Equip her with the skills to be aware of bullying in all its forms so that she won't be traumatized as an adult. It will be one of the most important parts of parenting that you will undertake.
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