Many of us experienced bullying in some form growing up, but bullying has reached new heights in recent years with the rise of social media. While schools have also ramped up anti-bullying campaigns, many of them are doing little to effectively quell the problem.
Displaying anti-bullying posters, for example, can actually make things worse.
“The problem is, that doesn’t really produce change,” says Dr. Jill Maine, Program Director of the Residential Program and licensed psychologist at Balance Treatment Center in San Luis Obispo and Calabasas, Calif. Giving bullies ideas about how to push around others can increase it.
By nature, bullying is a covert practice. That is, it doesn’t occur in front of parents or teachers and may happen in places where adults aren’t present, such as school buses or online.
Signs your child is the victim of bullying can include unexplainable injuries, missing items, trouble sleeping and eating disruptions. If your child is a bully, he or she may display aggressive behavior, get into arguments and hanging out with peers who also bully others.
Many children who are bullied think it is their fault, or are embarrassed to admit it’s happening to them. They also don’t want to be viewed as a tattletale, so they often don’t speak up. If parents dismiss the issue of bullying, the child can internalize the negative actions and they simply stop speaking up.
Parents need to validate the child’s experience and take an active role in it. Schools need to go beyond talking about what constitutes bullying and initiate solutions like mentor programs or anonymous tip outlets, which Dr. Maine says are effective ways to reduce bullying.
A New Approach to Bullying
Adults may have been told to walk away from bullies when they were young, or to deal with it on their own. That doesn’t work, Dr. Maine notes. These can discourage the child from facing the issue and make them sad; instead, they need to learn how to communicate. Even if bullying occurs at school, leaving it to teachers to handle isn’t the solution. Parents should be the first line of communication because that’s where behaviors are picked up. The consequences need to happen at home, too.
Bullying can lead to health problems, low self-esteem, bad grades, suicidal thoughts, and more. This is why many schools are equipped with professional counselor, who can help both bullies and victims.
“Sometimes the bully needs that just as much as the victim,” says Dr. Maine, who advises parents to seek counseling in school or outside of it if they think it may help their child.
To contact Balance Treatment Center, visit www.balancetreatment.com or call 855-414-8100.
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