Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Anti-Bullying Month - How to Step Up and Step In!

October is a very busy month with several extremely important causes - Anti-Bullying, Breast Cancer, and Domestic Violence Awareness.  Today, we are going to focus on Anti-Bullying and Cyber Bullying. Although I blog about bullying and cyber bullying frequently, I want to focus on giving you a bit of background information and a few keys for intervention.  With a better understanding of both bullying and cyber bullying, we can step up our awareness and with a couple of strategies under our belts, we can step in and help our children more effectively!

First, let's start with a basic understanding what bullying and cyber bullying are.
  • For the most part, they are learned behaviors. This is important because if we learned it, we can unlearn it!
  • Both are considered aggressive behaviors  - some behaviors constitute a deliberate intent to harm and others are in reaction to being harmed.
  • Bullying and cyber bullying are different from "normal conflict". In "normal conflict", there is an equal balance of power; with both kinds of bullying, there is a significant power differential. 
  • Bullies and victims (both with traditional bullying and cyber bullying) can take on both roles. This  means that many times a child is who is a victim may also be a bully, and the reverse is true as well. The role of the bystander is also very important.
  • Children bully or cyber bully for many reasons.  The top 3 reasons (supported by research) are the following:  (1) For power and control or to feel better about themselves; (2) It is fun or cool; (3) For revenge or retaliation.  It is also important to note that individuals suffering with underlying mental health issues can also be a contributing factor.
Becoming aware of how, why and to what degree our children are involved in bullying or cyber bullying will help us to step in and intervene!  Let's take a look at 3 strategies.

1.  Have a conversation with your children about bullying and cyber bullying. 
  • This is important - put away all technology and set aside some time to really talk.  Share stories of when you were a child (talk about bullying or other difficult challenges).
  • Discuss bullying cases in the news or in your neighborhood, school, or town.
  • Watch the  movie Bully (or other films about bullying) and discuss it.  Bring the topic out into the open and make it comfortable for your children to share.  

2. Become familiar with the signs that your child may be being bullied or cyber bullied (or both).
  • Look for changes in behavior over a period of time.
  • Child may appear unusually sad, depressed, fearful and afraid.
  • Child is sleeping too much or is having difficulty sleeping.
  • Child isolates, withdraws, or spends  more time alone.
  • Child is easily angered or agitated (depression in children often looks like anger).
  • There is a change in routine, friends, or activities. Child does not want to go to school. 
3. Implement these first three strategies - for victim or bully or both.

 Victim: 3 S's
  • Support - Let children know you believe them and support them. You will make it better.
  • Safety Net - Let children know you will put safety measures in place: reporting to authorities, implementing technology tools, participating in a buddy system or support group.
  • Social Skills - Many children who are victims feel insecure, afraid, have low self-esteem and worth, or are withdrawn. Through activities, counseling, or group work, build up those skills - empower them! 
Bullies: 3 C's
  • Consequences - Punishment alone does not work well.  Find our why the bullying is going on and implement meaningful consequences.
  • Contract - Implement a behavioral contract that will change the behavior and reinforce appropriate behavior. Use positive reinforcement as much as possible.
  • Counseling - After knowing more about the kind of bullying, the degree of bullying, and why they child is bullying, please consider counseling. There may be underlying issues or mental health concerns.
There is more we can do to continue to become aware and to intervene with our children.  There is much more information on my website Holli Kenley and in my book cyber bullying no more .

And join me next week, on w4cy Radio - Kenley's Keys for Recovery when we discuss protection and prevention! 12 pm ET!

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