What is Bullying?
Bullying is behaviour that intends to hurt, harm, or humiliate someone. It is not merely teasing or joking, as the target person is actually suffering. Bullying falls under three categories: direct, indirect, and cyberbullying.
The bully directly addresses their target. These behaviours are easily recognizable and observable: hitting, stealing, extorting, mocking, insulting, etc.
The bully does not directly address their target but attempts to harm them through other people or by ignoring them (a form of passive aggression). These behaviours are more difficult to observe. Examples of indirect bullying are spreading rumours that harm a person’s reputation, saying negative things about a person behind their back, causing them to lose friends, etc.
The bully uses technology to intimidate or harass someone. They use a cellphone, a computer, or a tablet to send hurtful or threatening messages to someone else on social media, on a blog, on an in-game chat, or on a video hosting website. Remember, these are considered acts of violence and are punishable by law.
How Will I Know if my Child is Being Bullied?
If your child is being bullied or cyberbullied, they might:
- Avoid certain places or activities they usually partake in for reasons that seem unclear.
- Refuse to go to school, to go early, or to stay late.
- Be afraid around certain people, places, or activities (e.g. scared to take the bus, go to their locker, or go to gym class).
- Have trouble concentrating in school and grades are suffering.
- Lose interest in school and talk about dropping out.
- Isolate themselves, lose several friends within a short period of time, or have few or no friends at all.
- Often be in conflict or in fights with their peers.
- Show symptoms of stress, such as: stomach aches, headaches, nausea, insomnia, lack of appetite, irritability, or aggressivity.
If you suspect that your child is being bullied at school or online, it is important to act quickly.
What to Do if your Child is Being Bullied
It can be very difficult for a parent to watch their child suffer because of bullying or cyberbullying. A parent can feel sad, miserable, or even guilty. Some people even start to resent their child and think that they should have reacted differently or been better at defending themselves, or sometimes even keep them in a victim mentality. So what is the right approach?
First, ask yourself some questions: What led you to believe that your child is being bullied or cyberbullied? Is your suspicion based on evidence or your child confiding in you, or is it just an impression? If it’s just an impression, it might be wise to confirm your suspicions with your child by explaining why you think they might be having a hard time.
Remember that the most important thing to do is listen and work with them to identify possible solutions. As a parent you can:
- Give your child tools to become more assertive.
- Accept and praise them for talking about it.
- Let them know that they don’t need to face it alone.
- Show and tell your child that you will be there for them when they are ready to talk.
- Give them options; if they prefer they can talk about it with another adult they trust, a counsellor at school or from Tel-jeunes, or a teacher. Remember, every school has a program in place to stop bullying.
- Choose to keep the information between you and your child to foster independence and let them find solutions themselves.
- Use your judgment to know when the situation is too much for your child to handle alone.
What to Do if your Child Witnesses Bullying
If your child tells you that they witnessed bullying, it means that the situation is bothering them and they want to talk about it, and possibly want support in taking action. Here are a few things you can do as a parent:
- It’s essential that you praise your child for coming to you to talk about it. You can help by accepting their emotions without contradicting them or judging their reaction.
- You can help your child find a way to react that is right for them. This is a good time to teach your child values. Do not hesitate to ask them about their own values.
- Witnesses can choose to intervene by acting to protect the victim from the bully or by reporting the bullying to the adult in charge. These actions can protect other young people and put a stop to the bullying. If your child decides to report the bullying to the school or the police, you can ask if they need your support throughout the process. For example, you can help them write a description of the events and accompany them to the principal’s office or the police station to submit it.
No matter what kind of bullying your child witnesses, it is important not to trivialize their experience and be accepting of their emotions. Do not hesitate to remind your child that how they react as a witness has a real impact on the bullying.