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Bullying and Social Rejection
Most children will have little difficulty making friends and finding their niche in their school environment. Interaction with other children can vary depending on your child’s temperament, personality and social needs. If a bullying or social rejection situation arises, children are generally in one of these three groups:
The Aggressive Child
Bullying behavior, which can take the form of negative words, gestures or physical contact, is learned. The aggressive child is imitating words and actions that he sees from watching older siblings, parents, caregivers, friends or the media. Bullies are seeking power, especially in groups.
If your child is exhibiting aggressive behaviors or if you have concerns that he is bullying other children, seek counseling right away and talk to your health care provider or school personnel for assistance in helping you and your child solve this problem.
The Passive Child
A child who is being bullied is usually reacting to an aggressive child in ways that make the bully feel superior. Children who are shy, culturally different, overweight, disabled or are fearful are frequently targets for bullying and/or social rejection.
The Innocent Bystander
Children who are friends, acquaintances or classmates of a bully need to understand the serious consequences of bullying. Encourage your child to resist the temptation of joining in, laughing or showing approval of the bullying behavior. If your child has witnessed a bully in action, you have the opportunity to teach him empathy and compassion.
What to do if your child is being bullied or is experiencing social rejection:
- Teach your child some “knock knock” jokes, funny stories and/or simple magic tricks to share with his peers. This may make him more popular and less of target.
- Tell your child to ignore the bullying. Over time, the group will get bored if your child doesn’t react.
- Find people who will stick up for your child: older kids, siblings, neighbors, police officers, ball players and/or military personnel. Have your child say to the bully or group, “Leave me alone. I have friends who won’t like what you’re doing.” Bullies are less likely to target a child if he is not alone in his community.
- Know your child’s friends and their families. Establish a relationship with them so they can confide in you if they feel it’s in the best interest of your child.
- If your child uses the Internet, talk to him about his social networking and who he is communicating with.
- Teach your child to stop responding to the bullies, block the Internet cyber bully, and tell a responsible adult about the activity.
- “Role play” different scenarios. First, pretend to be the bully and have your child respond. Then, have your child pretend to be the bully as you respond.
- Some children won’t confess that they are being bullied. If you suspect that your child is being bullied, let him know that he’s not alone and that you respect his privacy and feelings, but you don’t want things to get out of hand.
- Seek help by contacting the appropriate school employees, counselors, coaches and caregivers.
- Read books and watch movies, DVD’s and YouTube videos about bullying and social rejection. Talk about what is happening and what to do.
- Research has concluded that a child experiencing social rejection actually may “feel” pain as indicated by Magnetic Resonance Image studies of the brain. The saying “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” may not be true. Get counseling if your child is being bullied and you can’t resolve the situation. Self-esteem and fitting-in is significant to children.
- Remove your child from the bullying environment if all methods of stopping the bullying behavior have been tried and haven’t solved the problem.
– Kathryn Thorson Gruhn, MA CCC-SLP, author of My Baby Compass series
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