To Parents of Teens :: Have a Bully Action Plan
Our innate nature as parents is to protect our children. Yet it’s difficult to know how much “protecting” is enough … or too much. Who’s to judge whether our parenting style is “just right” or “over the top” or “helicopter mommy” -ish?
So how can we protect our teens and pre-teens when bullying occurs? And what if it happens behind the screen of an iPhone, iPad, or computer in the cyber world? Here are several tips to protect:
Don’t Fight Your Instinct
As the parent, you likely know your child best and you know what’s effective in terms of technique to communicate. Trust your gut, particularly if you see your child’s behavior becoming one of withdrawal or combativeness. Don’t cower if you see a train coming at your child, in other words — if you know there is a bully out there who has given your child a target on his/her back, pay attention. If a potentially dangerous or negative situation is coming their way, you need to know about it. This doesn’t mean you have to act immediately by fighting their battles, but get on board so you can support, assist, and provide guidance should the situation dictate. Being aware of danger lurking for your kids is truly about protection and about their safety.
Get them off their personal devices
Much bullying today takes place in the cyber world. Make sure you are monitoring how often kids are on their cell phones, laptops, iPads. Have “on” time and “off” time established. Take their devices away before bedtime — no more using their phones for an alarm, as phones in the bedroom at night are often permission and an open invitation to accessing texting, social media sites, the internet throughout the night. Yes, they will call you a “glommy mommy” but who cares? It’s about internet safety and teaching them what rules are important at your house.
Talk to any parent who has ever experienced a teen suicide or a near-death experience due to bullying or cyber bullying and they will tell you that among other things, communication is key. And when you are communicating, be specific about bullying and cyber bullying. If you hear your kids speaking about bullying or suspected bullying, never brush their innuendo or “fluff” comments associated with this topic under the rug. Perk up and listen. The ramifications of ignoring can be deadly.
Open a dialogue and begin asking a few questions. If they try to shut you out of the conversation, don’t give up or walk away. Talk about a specific cyber bully issue in the news — kids relate to real-life anecdotes. That may help get your child talking.
Give Them Usable Tools
Our teens need tools — “secret weapons” — to understand first what bullying truly is, and second how to navigate the world of cyber bullies. It’s not enough anymore to say “suck it up” or toughen up.” Sometimes our kids don’t have the inner strength to know how to suck it up or toughen up because in many cases, this may be the first time they’ve ever been exposed to a cyberbully. For starters, their tool set must contain a discernment tool — this tool teaches them right from wrong, healthy from unhealthy, and how to get away from a potentially dangerous situation.
Give them a Bully Action Plan
Below are six of the steps to start your child’s Bully Action Plan, should she/he need a toolset. Use this to initiate a dialogue with your teen or pre-teen so she/he knows what to do if ever bullied. Talking these through with your kids proactively may very well open an enlightening dialogue and may even save a life if she/he is dealing with a scary and unexpected turn for the worst on social media.
- Stay calm. Take slow, deep breaths. Walk away.
- Save evidence. Don’t erase the bully’s text, emails, posts, or journal entries you’ve written to document the situation.
- Remember that bullies are not worth your time. Try not to outwardly react to them. This gives them and their actions energy, which you don’t want to do.
- Stay close to the TruBlues in your life. TruBlues are those individuals who are there for you no matter what. They could be a friend, sibling, teacher, parent, or grandparent. Don’t close them out; instead get hugs from them and talk to them about what is happening. Share your feelings with a TruBlue who will help you through this difficult time that you didn’t create. Make a list of your TruBlues now.
- Do not be embarrassed or timid. You are courageous. Bullies are the cowards.
- If you’re being bullied on the Web, block/unfollow/unfriend the bully and do not talk excessively about the incident at school. The less “noise” about it, the better. Again, you don’t want to give these people or their actions any energy or motivation to keep doing it.
If you ever find yourself acting like a bully, stop immediately and apologize to the victim. Get help if you cannot stop.
In addition to these steps, it is important when discussing this vital issue with your teens, to understand what her/his particular situation is. Get details. In addition, have a conversation about how your teen can help another who may be encountering a bullying situation. Have her/him write concrete action steps for her/his exclusive situation.
By giving your teenager or pre-teen a Bully Action Plan, she/he now is aware of the power from within to halt bullying before it goes any further.