By Catherine Gaudreau
Most children have some involvement in bullying as they grow up, either as bullies or as victims. It is estimated that 10 to 15 per cent of children repeatedly bully others, and 10 to 15 per cent of children are repeatedly bullied.
Younger children in elementary and middle school are more likely to bully others than older children in high school, according to PREVNet, a Canadian network of researchers and organizations working together to stop bullying.
Bullying is a relational problem that arises because of a power imbalance, and it can have profound impacts on children and youth. These include mental and physical health issues such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders, along with poorer grades in school.
Children do not grow out of bullying on their own. Bullying that begins in elementary school, without intervention, can escalate into cyber-bullying, dating aggression and sexual harassment in the teen years. Sadly, many instances of teen suicide are linked to bullying.
Parents and educators clearly have an important responsibility to support children and youth in developing social skills, respect for themselves and others, social responsibility and good behaviour.
Part of this process is helping children comprehend that their actions, words and choices leave a mark on those around them – for better or for worse. In other words, teach children to treat others the same way they themselves would want to be treated.
Bullying thrives in secrecy. Break the silence and talk about bullying.
If your child is being bullied, coaching and role-playing can help him or her become more confident and assertive; for example, role-play a bullying scenario where your child learns to confidently say “STOP” to the aggressive behaviour.
Encourage your child to tell you or a teacher if he or she is being bullied.
Make a safety plan so your child can avoid locations where bullying is more likely to occur. Tell your children they are valued and loved as often as you can.
If your child is a bully, establish that his or her behaviour is not acceptable. Consistently apply appropriate consequences for bad behaviours – these will vary, depending on your child’s actions. Encourage empathy, for example, by teaching your child how to identify emotions of victimized characters in stories or movies. Give clear praise to your child when you see him or her exhibiting positive behaviours.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is model good behaviours in your relationships. Children tend to reflect what they are exposed to.
For more information, visit the Canada Safety Council online: www.canadasafetycouncil.org. Safety tips and resources for children, including colouring pages and activity sheets, are available at Elmer the Safety Elephant’s website: www.elmer.ca.
Catherine Gaudreau is communications coordinator at the Canada Safety Council. The CSC is a national and independent non-profit organization dedicated to the cause of safety.
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