What To Do About Bullies

According to studies, as many as 7 percent of America’s eighth-graders stay home from school at least once a month because of bullies. Other studies suggest that between 5-15 percent of children will be bullied or exhibit bullying behavior. With Columbine and other tragedies involving school violence, parents and educators are learning that they cannot ignore bullying.

Laura Nabors, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cincinnati McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, offers parents the following advice in dealing with this issue. Nabors works with children in clinical settings and the recommendations below are targeted for children from elementary school grades to early middle school.

  • Talk to your children. “One thing has changed in the 10 years since I have been a licensed psychologist – everyone is so busy that family discussion is down,” she says. Nabors stresses that it takes more time than a Saturday morning to talk to your kids, to build a strong relationship and to find out what’s going on. Especially, with very young children, it may take a lot of time to get them to talk.

  • Role play to help your children think of options to pursue when a bully picks on them. Teach your child what to do in advance of the problem by suggesting they change direction if they see a bully approaching or by playing close to the playground supervisor at recess.

  • Bullies are more likely to pick on children who are not confident, so teach your children to be assertive and self-confident. “You can only teach that by communicating with your children,” Nabors says. Children who are experiencing bullying may either have or develop low self-esteem, she says. Helping your child feel confident about about him- or herself by spending time together and praising accomplishments is one way to buffer your child against negative events and foster development at the same time. Nabors’ all-time favorite book for self-esteem is “The Little Engine that Could” by Watty Piper. She also recommends the book “I Want Your Moo: A Story for Children About Self-Esteem” by Marcella Baku Weiner and Jill Neimark from www.maginationpress.com.

  • Beware of signals that your child might be bullied. Reluctance to go to school, get on the bus or fearful behavior are signs you may need to investigate.

  • Act as a coach to your child. “When I was in school, bullying was more like teasing, but today it gets more physical more quickly,” Nabors says. “That’s why parents should not expect their children to handle it all on their own. Bullying needs to be taken seriously.”

  • If bullying does occur and happens repeatedly, write details down with names and dates. Report it to the teacher.

  • Healthy avoidance is a good strategy. There is nothing wrong with steering clear of a bully. “In life, even as an adult, there are going to be some people you will need to learn to avoid,” Nabors says.

  • Read books on this topic. “Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain,” written and illustrated by Trevor Romain (Free Spirit Publishing), is a good choice to read to your children in grades three to seven. Nabors recommends another source, “Safe at School – Awareness & Action for Parents of Kids K-12,” by Carol Silverman Sauders (also Free Spirit Publishing Inc.). Free Spirit Publishing can be reached via the Web at www.freespirit.com

  • Keep in mind that bullies are usually exhibiting behavior they have learned from someone else or they have experienced. Many bullies are victims, too. They need help, too, so by reporting a problem you are also helping them.

Contact: Dr. Nabors will be out of town until Aug. 12. Office: 513-556-5537

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