How to Handle Bullies
In today’s world, bullying isn’t just about teasing or picking on peers at school, Rabbi Shmuley says. Bullying among children today can turn violent and even deadly. And, girls are just as likely as boys are to bully and be bullied, he says. So, what’s the cause for this mean-spirited behavior, and how can parents stop it? Rabbi Shmuley offers his insight and advice
Why Children Bully Each Other:
Children today are more aggressive. Rabbi Shmuley says children are emulating the violent video games, TV shows and movies they’re exposed to.
Marriages today are weak. Many parents fight with each other, and Rabbi Shmuley says children absorb their aggression. “Here is the other thing—when you spend your time battling your spouse, you are going to have little energy left to discipline your kids, and he may become a bully,” he says.
Children today are angry. “They rage against their parents’ neglect; thunder against their parents’ indifference,” he says. “As their parents ignore them more and more, they feel resentful, so they look for victims around them to take out their aggression.”
Children today are being bullied by parents. “Parents themselves are overworked and tired,” Rabbi Shmuley says. “Rather than inspiring their kids with heart-to-heart conversations, they bark orders at them, find constant criticism and the child passes on the bullying.”
Solutions to Help Children Deal with Bullies:
Never show fear before the bully. “Don’t respond to him, but don’t run from him,” Rabbi Shmuley says. “Just go about your normal business as if he or she is not there.”
Make it clear to the bully that you will report her. “When the bully says, ‘You’re a crybaby and tattletale,’ be firm and say, ‘I told you I am going to report you [to a teacher]. I am not afraid of you, and I don’t care what you say,'” Rabbi Shmuley says.
Report the bully. “Go straight to the teacher and, better, to the principal,” he says. “Also, go home and tell your parents.”
Don’t bully back. “Your child does not have to demonstrate that he can be equally intimidating because, in the process, he will lose his innocence,” Rabbi Shmuley says. “Rather, teach your child to stand up to the bully [by reporting him or her to a teacher].”
Parents need to follow-up. Call the school and make sure the teacher or principal knows you will not tolerate your child being bullied. “If you feel the teacher or principal is not taking you seriously, go to the school board,” Rabbi Shmuley says. “Do not put your kid in an environment where they are going to be harmed. You are the parent—you are the one who is ultimately responsible for [your child’s] well-being.”
“There is absolutely no place for bullying in our schools. Children must be taught to report a bully immediately and never to fear retaliation. Parents must teach their children to stand up to a bully but never to become one—even to protect themselves. Principals and teachers who don’t take bullying seriously should be relieved of their duties.”