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Bullying Power and the powerless

Whether you are a parent or a young person, a bully, a victim, or a bystander, you must not put up with bullying behavior. As Dr. Newberger says, the impact of bullying can be so devastating that it's parents business to know about it, and to take action to protect kids and teach kids to protect themselves.

There are several ways parents can talk with kids about bullying. The first step is awareness of the signs of bullying. Watch for:
• Change in sleep.
• Change in appetite.
• Withdrawal from school or playground.

Parents can say, "I've heard sometimes kids can really be mean to other children." Then ask:
• Was anyone treated badly today at school?
• Are you afraid at school?
• Do you feel unsafe?

If a child answers yes, parents can follow up:
• How did the bullied kid feel?
• What did the kids involved do?
• What did you do?

Parents can support young people in standing up for other children. They can explain that, most of the time, the bully feels powerless. He may have some challenge going on at home. "Whatever it is," Dr. Newberger says, "often, if someone stands up for the kid being bullied, the rest will leave him alone." Parents can ask whether their child has any ideas about what to do. Frequently they will say, "I don't know."

In that case, Dr. Newberger says, "Practice with your child. It sounds goofy, but role-playing is delightful and kids love it. They are born performers, actors."

When parents rehearse a situation - for example a child on the playground about being bullied - kids get the actual words and the body language he or she can use. Then parents can say - whether they role-played a child defending himself or a classmate - "I would really be proud of you for standing up that way."

Hear and read more stories about bullying, in Bullying: True Stories, Boys on Bullying, The Power of Girls: Inside and Out and Words Can Work: When Talking About Bullying.

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Other Issues
Bullying   Cyberbullying
Bullying   One boy's experience
Bullying   One girl's experience
Communication   Listening
Sexual health   How parents teach

Read more issues >

Words Can Work: When Talking About Bullying - Booklet
Young people and parents tell how they handle and discuss bullying.
Boys on Bullying - DVD
Boys tell how they dealt with bullying through support from friends, parents, or other caring adults.
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