When it first becomes clear that your child is being bullied, every parent’s natural reaction is to leap immediately into protection mode. Your instinct is going to be to go directly to the parent’s of the child who is bullying yours. You may even find yourself wanting to confront that child. You’ll picture scaring him or her just enough so that they know you mean business; so that the little brat gets the hint and backs off.
For the record: Neither of those routes is the way to go.
Keep in mind, you have no idea what is going on in that child’s home or why they might be lashing out in mean and aggressive ways. It’s possible he or she has amazing parents who would be receptive to your call and immediately horrified to learn their child has been acting like a bully. It’s also possible the bully’s parents won’t care. And if that’s the case, contacting them directly could actually make things worse for your child.
That’s why Stomp Out Bullying recommends going to your child’s school instead. Or, if the bullying is taking place outside of school grounds and hours—the local police. Confronting the bully and working with their parents towards a solution always works out best when it happens in a neutral environment, and when you can ensure you have other allies on your side.
So how do you get those allies on your side? How do you convince the school to back you and your child up?
In a perfect world, every school would have a plan in place for dealing with bullies. In reality, cases of bullying can vary drastically and schools can approach those cases in entirely different ways. As KidsHealth.org points out, there is no one size fits all solution.
Hopefully your child attends a school that at least takes bullying seriously.
But what if that’s not the case? What if your school administrators brush off the behavior as just kids being kids? Or seem to think you are simply an over-protective parent?
Worse, what if they don’t believe the bullying is even happening at all?
Unfortunately, that happens a lot more than it should. In fact Signe Whitson, a certified school social worker, explains that many parents, “share this common experience of having their concerns downplayed by the very adults who are charged with keeping schoolchildren safe.”
She cites a few different reasons for this, to include a recent study that found that adults miss bullying 96 percent of the time.
That’s right. The bullying your child is enduring is happening right in front of the teachers and administrators you are calling on to help, and they’ve probably never even noticed it. This isn’t entirely their fault, since bullies tend to be very aware of how and when they can get away with their actions. But still, you can understand why some teachers might have a hard time knowing how to respond to a parent who is saying their child is being bullied when they haven’t witnessed that bullying themselves.
Then there is the fact that teachers and administrators are often overworked and underpaid, meaning they already have a lot on their plates, and they may feel a bit helpless in regards to what tools the district equips them with in putting an end to bullying.
If you find yourself in this position, though, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. First and foremost, Whitson suggests approaching as many people in a position to help as possible. Talk to every teacher your child has. To the bus driver who sees your child every day. To the crosswalk attendant and even the lunch ladies if you think it will help. You may not get a great response from everyone you approach, but the more adults you have keeping their eyes on your child and the situation at hand, the better.
Next, write everything down. Document every incident your child tells you about. Keep track of every meeting and conversation you have with school personnel. Write down all the solutions those in charge have agreed to. Make note of everything.
If the school still doesn’t seem too overly interested in helping you, escalate the situation to the district level. And if you’re still feeling like your child isn’t safe, don’t hesitate to contact the local police.
You may have a battle ahead of you, but Whitson notes one very big positive that can come out of your continued fight: If nothing else, your child will see you fighting. And they do gain hope and strength from witnessing your perseverance and recognizing they are not alone in this.