Published on 07/08/04

Parents can help stop bullies

By Brad Haire
University of Georgia

Everyone will be bullied at one time in their lives. It will most likely happen at school. If your child is being bullied, there are things you can do to help stop it.

Bullying can come in many forms. But it can include, physical or emotional abuse, damage to a child’s property, spreading malicious rumors or forcing a child to do something he or she doesn’t want to do, says Sharon Gibson, a family and consumer science educator with the University of Georgia Extension Service.

Don't ignore

A consistently bullied student can have emotional problems and can begin to perform poorly in school. And if the bullying is physical, it can take its toll on the student’s body.

Don’t ignore the problem. And don’t tell your child to ignore the bully.

“When a child is bullied, he or she may feel angry, helpless or deserted,” Gibson said. “If that child tells a teacher or parent about the bullying, they need to know that it is not tattling and that speaking about it was the right thing.”

Parents can become angry at first learning a child is being bullied. “Parents should stay calm and first find out if their child is in any immediate physical danger,” she said.

Contact school

The most important thing a parent can do is find a way to stop the bullying. Ask for a meeting with the principal of your child’s school. The principal can then determine if and when to bring the child’s teacher or teachers into the conversation.

“Again, parents should stay calm. If they are not, this could set up a defensive action by school officials,” she said. “Parents should be proactive but not demanding before they learn more about the situation at school.”

Teachers and principals train to deal with issues like bullying, she said. Parents should voice concerns but listen too.

Most schools have an action plan to deal with bully situations. If the school doesn’t, the parent should offer to help develop a plan.

The child doing the bullying should be given a chance to reform.

The bullied child should have an adult contact at school to tell if the bullying doesn’t stop. This person could be the teacher or a paraprofessional.

There is a lot going on in the average classroom. A teacher or paraprofessional can have their hands full all day. It can be tough to concentrate on one child.

Gibson recommends a codeword be established for the bullied child to use when he or she feels uncomfortable or in danger due to bullying. This will inform the adult without the child having to raise a hand or bring much attention.

The adult can then investigate or even witness the bullying.

Parents should follow up with the school to make sure steps are in place to keep all children from being bullied.

Parents can also:

- make sure the school has good monitoring.

- keep records of bullying episodes and of any communication with the school.

- work with other parents in their neighborhood to make sure children are supervised and feel safe.

At home, parents should encourage good social skills and behavior. They should help their child find his or her talents and praise accomplishments, she said.

Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.