I finally watched the documentary Bully, which had received a fair amount of attention documenting a serious issue. This documentary follows several children and their families, as well as school officials, to see how they are dealing with bullying in their communities. Bully brings attention to a serious topic, and helps to assess what role families and schools play in this. This article further examines these two settings, and helps to give ideas of what we need to consider, as well as some possible solutions.
Bullying is arguably a part of human history. People being singled out, because they are viewed as different, is not a new phenomenon. Therefore, many make the mistake of ignoring it, because they think it is inevitable and they don’t know what to do about it. To some extent, it is inevitable. Realistically we are never going to completely rid schools of bullying. Children find, and will continue to find new, creative ways of bullying. Examples of this can be seen with cyber bullying, which is something that did not exist 20 years ago. However, it doesn’t mean that it should be ignored. Better equipping children to deal with it can minimize its impact.
Are Schools to Blame?
Partially. Schools often don’t do enough when they know that a child is getting bullied. Parents will go to the school, the school officials will provide reassurance, but don’t know what to do with the problem. Kids don’t bully right in front of teachers, because they will get in trouble. To some extent this is an individual school’s problem, but it is a larger educational systematic problem. Those who went to school in education are not properly trained on how to deal with the psychology and sociology of bullying, victimization and abuse. School Counselors are more educated on how to handle such a problem on an individual basis, but they are often overwhelmed with too much work. Therefore, there is a larger issue here regarding the expectation of how the situation should be handled, and the current skill set and work load for those who are trying to deal with it. Therefore, we have to be careful of blaming individuals. Rather, we should be moving towards creating a systematic solution that starts with education of school officials.
What Should Parents Do?
It is well within the rights of parents to talk to schools about safety concerns, but they also need to help their child process how to handle the situation. If you have a child who is getting bullied, you need to help the child walk himself out of being the victim, to someone who is assertive an more confident. This is not an easy task, and it will not always be successful, but you don’t want to make the mistake of fighting all of his battles for him. He needs to know that he can come to you with his concerns and frustrations. It is natural to want to protect your child, but you have to be careful not to solve all of his problems for him. Instead, walk him through the scenarios to show that he can talk about them, he doesn’t need to be ashamed that it has happened, and that he always has options. It encourages self-esteem and growth, negotiation skills, and decreases feelings of hopelessness. So walk with your child through various situations. Talk about the frustrations of errors, and the pride that comes with successes, and you will likely notice a positive change in your child’s self-esteem, and social skills.