By Izzy Kalman, MS, NCSP
Quora is a popular website where people post questions and people who feel competent to answer offer their responses. One question recently asked by a parent is: How do I make sure the bully bothering my son leaves him alone?
Parents understandably want to be able to guarantee that their children are safe, including from bullying. The following is an edited version of the answer I posted. Unfortunately, the answer is that you can’t. There are few things in life that we can guarantee. There are many tactics parents have attempted to make sure kids stop bothering their child, but some of them are obviously unwise. You can follow your child around in school, if the school permits it, but that will make your child an object of ridicule by their peers. You can threaten or even attack the child targeting your son or daughter. While this may have been a successful tactic in the past – and it didn’t always work – today it is almost guaranteed to put you in serious legal trouble. There have been many news stories about parents who were arrested and tried for such actions.
You can inform your child’s teachers, as is commonly advised today. It might help, but it might also make the situation substantially worse. If the teacher takes your child’s side against the alleged aggressor, your child risks becoming known as a snitch, which can be a social death sentence. It can also lead to violent retaliation. So, if you decide to go that route you must take into account that it is a gamble.
Contacting the other child’s parents is a better bet, as long as they are decent people and you approach them calmly and sincerely, without anger and blaming. They will respect you much more than if you inform the school authorities on their child. Just let them know what is happening to your child, but don’t call their child a bully or they are almost certain to become defensive or shut the door on you, or maybe even respond aggressively. You can transfer your child to another school. That will stop the face-to-face bullying of your child, but your child might continue to be bullied online, and your child might get bullied by children in the new school, so this tactic, too, is no guarantee.
The absolute best way to ensure that your child stops being bullied is to provide them with the knowledge of how to handle the bullying on their own. They should be taught how to do so non-aggressively, without needing anyone’s help and without getting anyone in trouble. This way your child will not be seen as a snitch, will not face retaliation, and will grow in self-confidence and popularity because they are solving their problems independently. Handling hostility is a skill that will help your child throughout life because there is no such thing as a life in which people are only nice to us.
Fortunately, Be Strong is making this approach the keystone of its efforts to ensure children’s social success. The Be Strong Resilience Program we have developed will provide children with the full set of skills and knowledge they need to neutralize hostility on their own and even potentially turn their tormentors into friends.