By Rodrigo Mendoza
What is bullying?
Bullying is an aggressive intentional behavior presented over a relatively long period of time towards a person(s) that cannot defend themselves. Bullying is most commonly seen during adolescence when children are undergoing developmental changes and gaining more social awareness.
What are the signs that your child might be getting bullied?
Children are all different and experience bullying differently. While there is no specific sign that will indicate your child is being bullied, here are some generalized behavioral patterns to be aware of:
- Your child appears without interest, sad, teary, or irritable. It is especially noticeable when a usually happy kid is suddenly sad. Although major mood changes are expected during adolescence, it may also be a signal that your child is not handling changes in peers’ relationships effectively.
- Your child presents a generalized loss of self-confidence. For example, an A student is now bringing Cs home from more than one class.
- Your child frequently makes excuses to stay at home. Many of us have days when we just want to do something other than go to school. However, if it’s becoming a repeated habit, it may be a signal that he or she is being victimized.
- Your child is complaining of physical symptoms such as stomach pains, nausea, being overly fatigued, or having headaches and/or has unexplained cuts, scratches, bruises, etc.
How to ensure your child’s well-being:
- Talk openly. Your child should feel like they can come and talk with you about anything. Ideally, start this actively early in their childhood so your child learns to openly relay their experiences in an environment free from judgment. For example, you can have a tradition of talking with them about their school activities for a few minutes every day.
- Listen attentively. If your child communicates with you that they are being bullied, listen to their account and pay attention to the words they use. Listen for details of the incident: where it happened, who is involved, etc. This information will help you talk with the right people later on.
- Be aware of your own feelings. An emotional reaction to the account may not be appropriate at this moment. A good place to start is reassuring your child that everything is going to be ok. You can say something along the lines of: “Son, I am glad you are talking with me. You have all my support.”
- Address how to restore the emotional well-being of your child. As you develop a collaborative plan to address the problem, include ways to increase your child’s general confidence.
If the symptoms persist, visit your pediatrician to get additional professional involvement.
How to teach your children alternatives to bullying behavior:
While it can be common for children to show aggressive behaviors towards others, teaching your child alternative ways to deal with their emotions is extremely important.
Here are some suggestions on how to help your child:
- Engage your child and talk with them often. Establish a weekly 30-minute, child-driven, non-judgmental conversation with your child.
- Talk with your child about bullying. Ensure they understand what it is. Use the definition in this article but go beyond it. Include conversations about how bullying looks and how it feels to be a victim.
- Help them have positive social interactions. Take your child with you and assist other people with their challenges. These experiences can build your child’s social skills. Remember, teaching not to hit or tease others is not enough. Presenting your child with opportunities to show alternative proper social behaviors is the best way to eliminate bullying from their repertoire.
Any source of bullying can not only negatively impact your children’s well-being but can also be detrimental to those around them. By understanding the signs of bullying and how to reduce aggressive behaviors, you can help your children deal with their emotions in appropriate ways.
Rodrigo Mendoza holds a Bachelor of Science in University Studies from Brigham Young University and a Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis from ASU. Currently, he is completing the PHD ABA program at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. He is a Licensed and Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) who sees behaviorism as a movement to change the world’s verbal community. Through his work, he encourages other analysts to maintain behaviorism’s purity as a natural science. He is the Program Director of the ABA Department at T.E.A.M. 4 Kids Pediatric Therapy.