1. Never say to a bullied child: “Ignore the bully and walk away; they’re just jealous; twenty years from now, those bullies will probably be in jail and you’ll be successful; I know how you feel; or be patient.”
2. This is what you should say to your bullied child and do: Step one: Say, “I don’t know how you feel. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. It must be awful.” Step two: Say, “Let’s talk about an action that we can take together today to help solve this problem that you’re facing.” Step three: Contact the local park district, public library, and community center one town over and ask them to send you a list of their youth programs, then review this information with your child and help him choose something he can participate in. It’s important you go one town over so your child meets new faces and isn’t interacting with the same kids from school. Step four: Contact your child’s school counselor and calmly explain what’s been going on with your child. You might want to start out with
something like, “My child’s been encountering some challenges with his classmates and I’d like to sit down and discuss possible solutions with you.”
3. Don’t advise your child to ignore the bully. Tell him to confront the bully nonviolently and tell him to stop. If your child is too timid to do this, rehearse the confrontation with him the same as if it were a scene in a play, writing a script and memorizing the lines. You could play the bully,your child plays himself, and someone else in the family acts as director. Not only will this give your child a sense
of control because he’s practiced what he’s going to say and do, but the mild disassociation of approaching it like an actor portraying a part makes him feel less vulnerable.
4. If you feel the school isn’t being helpful enough, work your way up the chain of command. If the principal and the superintendent are unresponsive, present your case at a school board meeting, and if that doesn’t work, contact the education writer at your local paper. The same applies if you’re dealing with a teacher who’s a bully and are getting stonewalled by the school administration. You’d be surprised how quickly people come to attention when they start getting phone calls from journalists.
5. When approaching the parents of bullies and Elite Tormentors, rather than initiating the conversation on an accusatory note likely to make them defensive, start out by emphasizing what you have in common as opposed to what separates you. You might try something along the
lines of: “Our kids are struggling with each other, why don’t we get together and discuss how we can work together to help them both.”
6. If you think it would be helpful for your child to see a therapist, make sure that you attend the first few sessions with your child, so she feels you’re addressing this problem together as opposed to “I am the problem.” Also, thoroughly research the mental-health professional’s background, and request references. Should a psych med be prescribed, ask lots of questions and be confident of
the doctor’s diagnosis before giving your child anything.
7. Be alert to the warning signs that your child may be getting bullied. Those signs could include: lethargy, depression, self-mutilation, extreme makeover attempts, diminished personal hygiene, lack of interest in social activities, sudden change in weight, inexplicable fits of rage,sudden increase or decrease in grades, and faking illness or willing oneself sick to avoid going to school.
8. If you suspect your child may be an Elite Tormentor but aren’t sure, casually have a conversation with her about who’s popular at school and who’s not, coaxing her into revealing the names of those students who struggle to fit in or who strike her as lonely. A week later, ask your child
if she’d like to host a party suggesting it might be nice if, along with her friends, she invited a couple of the forgotten ones, too. If she agrees despite what her friends may think, she’s probably an Elite Leader. If she won’t because she’s fearful her friends would freak but feels bad about it, she’s most likely a bystander. But if she recoils at the thought or acts indignant, perhaps even laughs, chances
are she is an Elite Tormentor. When your child is on the phone, pay attention to her tone and demeanor. Does it sound like she’s making a joke at someone else’s expense or gossiping about
another student? This too could indicate you have an Elite Tormentor on your hands. Also, keep an eye on your child when she’s on the Internet. When she instant messages friends, is she bad mouthing others? What blogs does she frequent and what are some of the things she and her friends are posting? Does she participate in nasty e-mail-a-thons with other students? The more you
know, the more you can protect her and everyone else.
9. Traditional punishment doesn’t work. It only makes an angry child angrier. Try more compassionate and creative forms of discipline. For example, if your daughter gets in trouble at school for teasing an overweight classmate, take her to the pediatric eating disorders unit of the local
hospital to volunteer as a candy striper for a day. If your son puts down some of his less fortunate classmates, spend an afternoon with him at a soup kitchen handing out food to the homeless. The key is to help your child access their empathy and find creative ways to develop it as one would exercise.
10. The typical bullied child is an Ancient Child, an old soul trapped in a young body. This is the child who wants to fit in just as desperately as his peers, but he has an adult sense of compassion and morality that sets him apart and often makes other children perceive him as “weird.” If you have an
Ancient Child, remember, though he may act more socially and intellectually mature than his classmates, inside, he’s still emotionally just a kid, and realize that the rejection he’s enduring at school could be cutting a hole in his soul, and it’s up to you to do everything you can to help him, even on those days when your patience has run out and you fear your hope may be next. And if you’re an Adult Survivor of Peer Abuse yourself, don’t dismiss what happened to you. Find a therapist and talk about it so it assists you as a parent in understanding your child.