Open Communication~Explain to your child or student what exactly bullying is in terms appropriate for their age and maturity level. They need to be fully aware of all the complexities that bullying entails. (refer to this post for an overview) Most children know that physical abuse is bullying, and wrong, but they need to understand the way they talk to each other and excluding others are also forms of bullying. In this open dialogue inform the children or students exactly what they do if they are the victims of bullying. Make the communication very open so the child will feel comfortable enough to be open with you about whether or not they understand what bullying is and whether or not that have been bullied before. The communication must be a two-way, open, street!
Being a Bystander is Not Okay~Sitting back and watching the harrassing behavior is not okay! Teach your children or students to have empathy for other people. Even my 3 year olds understand the concept of, "how does it make you feel when someone is mean to you? So how do you think it makes them feel when you are mean to them?" It's a simple concept that, if started at a young age, has great outcomes of how we treat one another! Kids need to know that not only is bullying not tolerated, but neither is sitting around and watching bullying. Not everyone is going to feel okay with standing up to the one who is doing the bullying. That's okay. But let them know that it is okay, and necessary, to tell a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult about it right away. Doing this is not tattling, it is preventing someone from getting seriously hurt and/or upset.
Know the Policies~Whether it is your workplace or your child's school, know their policies on bullying! You can't help them, and they can't inform you if you don't know and understand their policies.
Pay Attention~Some children may be reluctant to open up verbally about bullying, whether they are embarrassed, or think it's their fault. As the parent, you must watch for warning signs! Is your child suddenly reluctant to go to school? A very high amount of headache or stomachach complaints? Has there been a sudden behavior change, like anger or anxiety? Does he or she seem sad most of the time? Are the having sudden issues with siblings or parents? Trouble eating or sleeping? Has there been a sudden drop in their academic or extra curricular performance? Are they suddenly missing or having damaged belongings? Are there unexplained injuries?
Don't Wait~When you suspect bullying, don't just sit back and wait for someone else to solve the problem. Don't think of it as harmless teasing or "kids will be kids." Get up and stand up against bullying yourself. Tell the child to stop bullying. Let them know that it is not okay, what they are doing. Talk to the principal or the child's parents. Do something! If a bully realizes he is getting away with it, it will continue. If it immediately gets stopped, though he may try again, he will eventually give up because it is either not working or he is the one getting into trouble. This will also prevent others from trying to bully another.
Be a Good Example~That old adage "actions speak louder than words" is as true today as it has always been. Children, espeically, will model our behavior. We cannot tell them to "play nicely" or "treat that person with kindness" and honestly expect them to listen when they see us excluding others or hear us talking badly about another person. Though some kids may seem like parrots, they all will always copy what we do! We need to show them how to be kind, respectful, and compassionate towards others.
Have a happy day~Kasey