teens and bullying

Bullying and Parenting Advice from Rosalind Wiseman

Written on April 30, 2012 at 12:30 pm , by

Bullying is a hot topic right now. And for good reason. Lots of kids are suffering from bullying both at school and online from their peers. As a result, parents are trying to figure out how to best handle the situation. In an effort to create a dialogue on bullying, we hosted a live Facebook chat with teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman last week and invited you to ask her questions. During the chat, Rosalind, who specializes in bullying prevention, shared her tips and advice for parents who are faced with bullying issues. Here’s what happened during the chat:

Family Circle: Welcome to our live Bullying and Parenting Advice Chat with teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman. She’s here to offer advice and answer all of your bullying and parenting questions. Our digital director, Lisa Mandel, will be moderating the conversation. Please feel free to post your questions below for Rosalind.
Lisa Mandel: I’m Lisa Mandel, the Digital Director for FC. Welcome to our chat with parenting and bullying expert Rosalind Wiseman. Given that almost all kids are exposed to bullying— either because they’re bullied, they bully someone or have seen it happen –all of us parents need help dealing with this issue. Post your questions for Rosalind here.
Rosalind, I’ll ask the first question. What should a parent do if her child is targeted by bullies?
Rosalind Wiseman: Hi Lisa, it’s a really important question. If your child tells you about being bullied I suggest you say, “I’m so sorry that’s happening to you, thanks for telling me, and together we’re going to work on figuring this out.” What I don’t want parents to say are things like “Just walk away, ignore it, don’t let them see it bothers you, you’re better than they are, they’re just jealous. We want to give guidance to our children for skill building and comfort.

Lisa Mandel: What do you do if you’re worried that your child is being bullied, but your child says nothing?
Rosalind Wiseman: If your child says nothing but you think they’re being bullied, privately go up to them and say: “Hey, Unfortunately it’s common for people to be mean to each other. But that doesn’t make it right. If it ever happens to you, you know you can talk to me about it right? Now don’t expect a conversation right away. Sometimes the child needs some time to think about what you said and get back to you.

Lorrie: I was just watching the news and was disgusted at the Bruins’ fans that used racial slurs on Twitter after last night game. How can we expect our children to not bully when adults are doing?
Rosalind Wiseman: Hi Lorrie, I use those experiences when my children see someone be mean, or rude to say exactly what I am seeing that I don’t like and how their behavior goes against what our family stands for. I use it when I am driving and someone is flipping someone off or shouts cuss words out the window too.

Lisa: I’m concerned about cyber-bullying. I don’t want to spy on my kids online, but how do I know that they’re okay?
Rosalind Wiseman: Hi Lisa, I really want you to think about applying the rules you teach your children in real life are the same as online. Of course, you should monitor what they’re getting and sending through their computers and mobile phones and Verizon and ATT both have parental control centers where you can see exactly what’s happening. And tell your kids you are doing that.

Tina: What is a true definition and a true meaning of bullying? My children, ages 15 and 10, attend a small school (126 peers k-12). We have 2 separate schools in our district, what I have a problem with is a child going home to parent and saying, so and so said I had bad breath today or said my hair looks funny and following day child is removed and put into other school. Shouldn’t the parent address the small issue with faculty and student and work it out first? To me, bullying falls under a very different circumstance.
Rosalind Wiseman: Tina, bullying is using power or strength of make someone feel worthless. It’s usually over a period of time. So in order for people to take bullying seriously we need to be clear about the definition.

Faith: My 5-year-old seems to be targeted by the same kid in his class, pushing, kicking, harsh words. The teachers response is to walk away. I contacted the principal when the child got a phone call home for 3 incidents against my son in the same day. The principal hasn’t let me know the situation details, and that was last week. If the school phones the parents of the child who got in trouble, why didn’t I, the parent of the child receiving the negative actions, get informed?? And how young does the bullying start??
Rosalind Wiseman: Faith, bullying happens when it happens regardless of age. As the parent of the target you have the right to be informed about what happened, what they did in the immediate time after and what their plan is for the future. You don’t have the right to ask what disciplinary procedures are happening with the child because they have to protect the confidentiality of the child—just as you’d want if you were on the other side of this.
Faith: Frankly, I don’t care what the disciplinary actions are; just that the school knew my child was the target and never informed me. It is a weekly thing that this particular child is kicking my son, or hitting him, or pushing him down….and this is the 2nd time I’ve voiced concerns and asked to be notified of any incidents. The teacher is retiring this year and seems to have a lackadaisical view of most everything. But when my child comes home with bruises and a black eye, don’t I have the right to know what’s going on??

Julie: What do you do when you tell your child to tattle to a grown up when they are bullied, but the school staff has been told by the principal not to do anything unless they themselves (staff) witness the incident?
Lisa Mandel: It seems like many schools are adopting the policy that a child’s word is not believable unless an adult corroborates it.
Rosalilnd Wiseman: For everyone who is battling schools with this issue. The laws don’t ever specify that an adult has to witness the abuse. So if the administrator says this then you need to remind them of the laws. You can also point them to what the US Department of ED says about this. They don’t say an adult has to be present.
Lisa Mandel: Here’s a link to an analysis of state bullying laws.
Rosalind Wiseman: Thanks Lisa!
Julie: I live in Canada. Our laws are different, I guess. Here in Canada, the schools bring the bully and victim together for a “chat” which, in my opinion, just re-victimizes the victims since al the bully does is lie.
Rosalind Wiseman: Hi Julie, I don’t think so. It’s worth checking out. I’ve worked in Canada a lot and it’s never come up in any of the policy conversations I’ve had or heard.
Julie: Because of school staff policy (If you didn’t witness it, you can’t intervene”), I have had to tell my child, “YO cannot draw first blood, but you CAN fight back and defend yourself.” Here in Canada, there is an anti-bullying bill just now working its way through parliament. Until it gets passed, there is nothing. Thus, it’s up to each individual school board to set policy. Ours…suck.
Rosalind Wiseman: Julie, yes in bullying situations or when that is even a possibility schools need to realize that bringing the target and bully together re-victimizes the target. It’s another example of how adults are part of the problem. If this happens to you, as in the school wants to do this, refuse and ask to meet with the counselor separately to prepare your child for a strategy where they can feel safe.
Julie: Too late. The school says it does not have to inform parents when they bring bully and victim together for a chat, so we found out about it after the fact. Now the bully is worse than ever, because he feels he got away with it.

Lisa Mandel: I like the idea of making sure your child feels safe. What can you tell parents who are worried that their child will be socially punished if they say something about the bullying?
Rosalind Wiseman: I know a lot of parents worry about social backlash if their kids come forward but what I tell kids is that that they have to make a decision in a difficult situation. Either they say nothing and the bullies continue or they say something and you have a chance of addressing it. And honestly, most kids aren’t completely ostracized only for coming forward. They are usually socially vulnerable for additional reasons. Obviously that doesn’t make it their fault, it’s just something to know as you think about it.

Julie: Rosalind, have you seen the new movie “Bully”? What were your thoughts?
Family Circle: Hi Julie, here is a blog post written by Rosalind about the movie “Bully.”
Rosalind Wiseman: “Bully” is an important movie that I think is worth watching for parents and teachers. I also think 7th grade and up can see it. It’s a good movie to begin the conversation about what bullying really looks like and how adults often without realizing it contribute to the problem.
Lisa Mandel: I’m planning to take my teenage sons to see it this weekend. I found it almost too disturbing to sit through. Very powerful.

Mary: What do you do when the school does nothing, nor does the school board? Also what do you do if the teacher is your child’s bully?
Angel: I would love to know what to do when a teacher is the one doing the bullying. We have one teacher in particular that loves to humiliate children in front of the class. Of course when I, and other parents have went to the school about it, we get the same response…”I’m sure that there is probably more to the story, and that the kids were causing trouble”…any suggestions?
Angel: I just want to say that I have twin 13-year-old girls, and they have witnessed some serious bullying over their last couple years in junior high. My girls have stood up for the “underdog” many times; even if it meant having others give them a hard time about it. I just wish the school system took it more seriously than they do.
Rosalind Wiseman: Angel, it’s not easy when kids or anyone for that matters stands up for what’s right.

Family Circle: Thank you for joining our Bullying and Parenting Advice Chat with teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman. We hope you enjoyed the chat and got some useful parenting advice. Thank you to Rosalind Wiseman for sharing your expertise, as well as our digital director Lisa Mandel for moderating the discussion. Thanks everyone!
Rosalind Wiseman: Thanks everyone!
Lisa Mandel: Rosalind, it was a pleasure having you. Please come back and chat with us again soon.
Julie: Thanks FC!

Stay tuned for our next chat with Rosalind Wiseman on our Facebook wall!

Check out these links for more parenting advice from Rosalind Wiseman:
“Bully” Movie is Hard to Watch, But Must Be Seen
Q&A: My Daughter Is Being Mean to Her Longtime Friends
Q&A: Should I Contact My Child’s School About a Problematic Teacher?

Jennifer Moncayo is web assistant for FamilyCircle.com.