Recent news reports of bullying in the NFL show that the problem goes well beyond playground taunts or ridiculing a classmate on social media. While some NFL players argue that picking on rookies is a normal part of the team-building process, others think it’s gone too far.
“When it comes to kids, bullying is not a normal part of child development,” said Dr. Sarah Adams, a pediatrician in the Streetsboro office of Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics. “So, it’s important to deal with it right away. Otherwise it can lead to more aggressive anti-social behavior and impact your child’s ability to make friends.”
Why do kids bully?
Bullies often have either very low or inflated self-esteem. Picking on someone they perceive as weaker makes them feel more important, popular or in control.
They may have been victims of bullying themselves. Or they may have family members who model bullying behavior, so they learn to treat others this way.
Ways to prevent bullying
What can you do to ensure your child doesn’t become a bully? Dr. Adams recommends the following steps:
- Discuss your morals and values regarding how you treat others. Help your child understand that it’s wrong to be mean or ridicule those who are different.
- Monitor your child’s interactions with others. Does he treat you with respect? How does he get along with siblings, cousins or peers? When conflicts occur, does he resort to name-calling, harsh put-downs or physical altercations?
- Get your child involved in activities outside of school. This will help build her self-esteem, teach her how to cooperate, expose her to different kinds of people and encourage friendships beyond those at school.
- Set a good example. How you get along with others and handle conflict will make an impact.
- Monitor screen time. Keep the computer in a centralized place, so you can keep tabs on your child’s activity. Monitor whom your child is calling or texting and set rules about cell phone usage.
If your child bullies another child, follow these steps to put an end to it:
- Take it seriously. Make it clear that bullying is unacceptable and enforce meaningful consequences.
- Find out why your child is bullying. Is it due to insecurity or low self-esteem? Is your family going through a stressful life event? Does your child have trouble managing anger or frustrations? If necessary, seek professional counseling to help your child manage strong emotions and get along with others.
- Recognize positive interactions. Praise your child when she helps another student or resolves a conflict without using aggression.