Monday, May 11, 2009

How To Protect Your Child From Bullies--Teach Them Not To Be An Easy Victim

Recently, two young boys have taken their lives. Allegedly because of being bullied in school. Both boys were 11 years old. Jaheem Herrera of DeKalb Georgia committed suicide last week. Earlier this month, Carl Joseph of Massachusetts, also committed suicide. Both boys killed themselves amidst taunts that they were gay.

What’s striking is that parents for both children said they had alerted school officials about the violence against their children.

Both schools were taken aback by the allegations. The DeKalb school district even had an anti-bullying program which had received praise for its approach which sought to raise student, teacher, and parent awareness. There was also a trained liaison on staff. The program even went as far as asking students to sign a no-bullying pledge. Despite this, other parents told CNN they have complained about bullying as well. So, what went wrong?

I think in both cases, these parents expected the school to protect their kids. And, while that may seem like a reasonable assumption, it wasn’t true in my day and it most certainly isn’t true today. Parents, you are going to have to take charge of the situation in order to protect your child.

The first step is enabling your child to deal with a bully. KidsHealth recommends two approaches: preventing a run-in with the bully and planned reactions if your child ends up face-to-face with them.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Within reason, instruct your kids to avoid the bully by taking a different route to and from home and to class. Also, tell them not to frequent where the bully hangs out.

If your kids do happen to end up face to face with the bully, KidsHealth suggests the following:

Ignore the bully. Bullies want a reaction.

Stand up for yourself. Be brave and confident. Tell the bully "No! Stop it!" in a loud voice. Then walk away, or run if you have to. Kids also can stand up for each other.

Now, I’m going to recommend something here that KidsHealth DOES NOT. Thinking back on when I was in school, if I were bullied and ran from a fight, I would get a whipping for running away. Did any of you experience this? In my family we were taught to defend ourselves if we could not get away from the person bothering us or if they would not leave us alone. We were taught that a true bully really doesn’t want trouble, just an easy victim. So we were taught not to be victims. We were taught to fight and fight hard. The way my parents figured it, even if I didn’t win, the bully would take so much punishment in return that he would surely find an easier mark. Were any of you out there taught this? Now, one must really exercise caution here—I’m not talking about fighting, which is illegal. I’m talking about self defense, which is doing what’s necessary to get out of the dangerous situation. So, just how does a parent go about teaching their kids productive self defense? Personally, I think enrolling a kid in a martial arts class is a great way to teach them how to defend themselves, teach them respect for human dignity, improve their physical health, and boost their self confidence. My daughter is two and I plan on enrolling her in a Tae Kwon Do class this fall.

Don't show feelings. Kids should try not to show they are angry or upset.

Tell an adult. If being bullied, it's very important to let kids know to tell an adult such as teachers, principals, parents, and lunchroom helpers

Now, just as important, what can you do as a parent? Get involved and stay involved. Partner with your child, the school, and the community. Watch your child. Talk to them. Know who their friends are and talk to them. Watch for signs of depression or suicide. Look for changes in personality whether manic or depressive. Build them up and let them know they are loved. Enroll them in a martial arts class. Heck, go with them. Visit the school unexpectedly. Pick them up from school unexpectedly. When your child first enters school, meet with the Principle, teachers, counselors, administrators and staff. Attend Parent Teacher Association and academic advisory meetings. Visit the school often. Get to know other parents. Is one of their children being bullied? Give them your support. Ask them to read this article.

And what if your child does fall prey to bulling? I’ve seen parents come to school and raise holy hell over school uniforms, why not over bulling? You need to be the most vocal, most political, most obnoxious, most engaged parent in the school. Meet with all the people I named above and express your displeasure. Demand a solution not just an answer. Bring your lawyer or City Councilman if you have to come back. Offer to meet with the other child’s parents to see if they are open to resolving the situation. If possible, take time to take your child to and from school. Question your child and find out at what time of the day the bulling is taking place. Then demand that school officials be there to intercede or you will.

Just remember, no external system can protect your child in and of itself. But you can. Get involved and demand solutions--continuously and LOUDLY!


Anji said...

I think that if a parent suspects his/her child is a bully they could find your advice helpful too. Children who are confident don't get bullied like the introverted shy ones do. I hope lots of parents see what you've written

Iam Robert said...


You're so right. Confident people are often not the target of bullies. What I want for my children is that they be confident without being cocky or overly aggressive. What's the old adage? "Walk softly and carry a big stick."

Thanks so much for sharing.