This Parent’s Guide to Bullying is a short version of the signs parents should be aware of if their child shows a gradual increase in misbehavior, they suddenly don’t like school, or if they constantly complain about one or two people bothering them.
Some may come right out and say “I am being bullied,” and these are the words that should make you stop and listen. Do not ignore your child’s words, or deny that something is happening to them.
Parents are afraid to step into their children’s lives, to step on their toes, to squelch their independence. But it is better to be a safe parent, an overprotective parent, then to walk into your child’s room one day and find they have ended the bullying once and for all.
Or, heaven forbid, get a call from the police that your child is in custody.
The biology of bullying
Now that we know the effects of stress on the body, and that over time stress can cause changes in our DNA; and now that we know about trauma and how it affects a person over a lifetime; it is easy to see how the stress of bullying can change a child’s thinking.
A child who is bullied is constantly scanning his environment for danger. His danger is the crowd that will laugh at him and humiliate him; afraid that his bully will physically take hold of him and do embarrassing things to him. Each time this thinking occurs, the body’s protective mechanism goes into action, which in turn intensifies the physical reactions.
At first, these feelings are easy to deal with. There is the momentary rush of adrenaline brought on by fear, but this quickly subsides when the threat subsides.
But as time goes on, feelings of despair, loneliness, uselessness, and desperation become more intense. Your child is desperate because no one will listen, no one will stop the attacks, and there is nothing he can do about it. He feels helpless and alone – because he is.
People are cruel. They will tell your child this is all in his head, there is nothing they can do about it. They will tell him he is full of blaming and that he must be doing something to cause his problems. They tell him he is making this up, and it is just a play for attention. They tell him everything but what he wants to hear, which is: “I can help you with your bully.”
Perhaps that is the most frustrating. People won’t step in and stand up for him. They think he should be handling this on his own and if he cannot deal with it they say, “Oh, well, it is not my problem.”
The child starts looking for ways to resolve “his problem” himself, but his resources are limited and his brain is churning from the trauma.
Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me.
The longer your child is bullied, the more apt his thoughts are to go down this dark path. And for good reason. This thinking is easy to justify. Look around, who is there for support, who is standing up next to him? This is his truth: “Nobody loves me, everybody hates me.”
This mantra is coupled with anger. Anger because the problem cannot be resolved. Anger because the people who should be taking care of this (teachers, parents, law enforcement) are not. They make excuses for the bully and tell your child to change his ways.
So the child changes his ways. He begins to plot and plan to get rid of his bully. Life would be better if he were not living on this planet. This idea takes hold, and his immature brain seizes on this as the only solution to his problems. After all, he tried everything else and nothing has worked.
This idea festers over time. Children are naturally kind and compassionate, not killers. School shooters are not born trouble makers. What creates a shooter is his unsupportive and hostile environment, his lack of belonging, his desperation to permanently remove the daily threats and harassment. By the time your child takes a gun to school, his mind is in the place of no return.
We cause school shootings by not listening to your child when he desperately asks for help. We refuse to offer the help, yet we blame guns for the killings.
We cause deaths from bullying because we are not aware of the warning signs or the devastating effects of being bullied. Parenting is not easy, and it becomes even more difficult when your surly child pushes you away, won’t talk to you, and acts like they don’t want your love.
Ignore these outward signs. They are begging for your love and understanding. They are in desperate need for someone to listen to them and take the load off by offering to help stop their bully.
What makes more sense? If you had a choice what would you do? Promote stricter gun control, or ban the bullies and the uncaring people that allow bullying to continue?
What can we do?
- Show compassion and understanding for both the child who is bullied, and the child who is bullying them.
- Take a proactive stance when your child says “I am being bullied,”
- Teach children to look for healthy ways to handle their situation.
- Do not tell them to ignore their bully.
- Give them support and validation.
- Let them know you love them.
- Don’t judge their actions.
- Above all, please, do not validate or justify the bully’s actions.
The trick is in nonjudgmental listening. Even if the story sounds unbelievable, believe him. And then do what you can to help resolve it. Do not rely on the teachers to step in, because they won’t. You will probably have to take the problem into your hands. Start simple. Be creative. Talking to the bully and his parents may only end in denial and escalate the problem. But whatever it takes, end the problem before it grows out of proportion, before you have even more serious problems on your hands.
It is not a sign of weakness to be bullied. It is a sign of power and control and preying on victims. Until this behavior comes under control, we will continue to see violence and death. Life doesn’t have to be this way, folks. This is definitely no way to live.
With this Parent’s Guide to Bullying, it is my goal that the parents of the 160,000 kids that stay home every day because of their fear will take a strong stance and free their child of the prison they are locked into. Your child will be forever grateful.