On average, 160,000 students around the nation stay home daily because they fear being bullied at school. What’s more, it’s likely parents are unaware their child is being bullied. Unfortunately, kids can feel shame and social pressure to keep this information to themselves. Some may even feel that if they did share their experience, it would either fail to help the situation or make things worse. It’s important to understand that bullying happens, that it could be happening to your child and the reasons why he or she might not bring this to your attention. Here are a few things that may be happening in the background of your child’s experience that may keep them from sharing.
Labeling. Children do not possess the understanding that what they do and say to one another matters, and carries real-world implications. On the playground, a child’s reputation can be created in an instant and stay with them throughout their elementary school experience. This label can be anything from “timid” to “tattle tale”. It’s important to differentiate for a child what is important to share with an adult, and what is playground banter.
Retaliation. Adults can only do so much when it comes to bullying intervention. Adults can certainly converse with the bully to understand what is going on and address the concerns of the bullied child. Yet, they can’t always be around to monitor the behavior or intervene when things escalate. When a bully gets confronted about his or her actions, it tells them someone (likely the child being bullied) told on them. In the moments when no one is looking are when acts of retaliation can occur.
Being believed. Sadly, many children don’t think their parents will believe they are being bullied, or be victim blamed. Children may also take responsibility for the bully’s actions because they believe themselves unworthy of being treated kindly, or the cause of the bully’s behavior. It’s important to listen to your child and allow their feelings to be validated before taking action such as speaking with their teacher or the bully’s parents.
It’s useless. Research tends to support the notion that telling a parent is unlikely to stop bullying. All too often, when a child shares their situation with an adult, it is met with “toughen up”, “it’s a part of life”, or “he’s only doing it because he likes you and doesn’t know how else to express his feelings”. These are dangerous lessons to teach children about how to deal with these situations. It dismisses them, their feelings, and the actions of the bully, and teaches them that they should accept the way others treat them, rather than how to appropriately deal with the situation.
Shame. Shame and embarrassment are real feelings children carry around their bullying experience. When a child feels ashamed for any reason or embarrassed by the actions and reactions of their peers, it’s less likely they will speak up. They have to live with these feelings at school around their peers and might fear their parents will make them feel this way at home.
Bullying is never okay, and the victim’s feelings are always valid. Your child may not bring their experience to your attention, so it’s important to listen and encourage them to share their feelings. If they say things that may hint to instances of being bullied, but won’t tell you outright, it may be a good idea to speak with their teacher to learn more. That may allow you an avenue to begin asking the right questions at home and get to the bottom of why they may be acting strangely or quietly at home.
If you would like to learn more about simple acts of kindness, contact Simple Acts of Care and Kindness at 866-459-7225 or visit www.simpleacts.org for additional information.