As a parent, I know the tendency to want to step in and immediately rectify any complaint my child might have against another. I am tempted to go right to the child in question and “enlighten” him… suddenly becoming a big bully myself. Unfortunately, when we take the solution out of their hands and put it in our own, they have not gone through the somewhat painful but empowering steps in learning to deal with the situation themselves. I may even be grooming him to be dependent on me for minor cases in the future as well. In extreme cases, immediate intervention is necessary, but in most cases, a few timely suggestions and support will help your child feel enabled to deal with the situation both now and in the future.
When my child comes home with a complaint of unkind treatment by others, what should I do?
Education begins immediately. Help your child to take the correct steps to stopping the behaviour the very next time it happens. Following the Matthew 18 principle we have discussed in the earlier articles, the first step is letting the intimidator know in no uncertain terms that this is not pleasant and the action should stop. If it continues, the next step is to loudly tell the intimidator to stop. There are now witnesses and other eyes apply the pressure to stop. Continuing unwanted behaviour past this point will be seen as a decision to bully. At this point, tell your child to seek an adult who will stop the behaviour and take steps to ensure it will not continue in future. Tell the teacher about the complaint the next day so he/she can be aware of in-class and playground interactions. Your child is now equipped to stop the unwanted behaviour on their own or can sit back and watch the system at work protecting them.
At what point do I as parent step in and approach the school? Do I speak to the teacher or the principal?
As a parent, step in immediately. Give them tools to deal with the situation the very next time it happens. Approach the teacher as soon as possible so they can be aware of any repetition or escalation. If you feel little change has occurred, feel free to approach the principal. The principal is not “in the trenches” so is not as capable of keeping a watchful eye out as the teacher. He will, however, be able to look into the situation and try to discover where the breakdown might have happened. He can then map out any further steps or intervention necessary.
I know that some parents don’t approach the school because they feel as though they would be making a mountain out of a mole hill. How would you respond to this?
A good question to initially ask your child might be: “What other problems have you had with this other student?” This question may help you decide if you need to intervene. Find out if this is a typical spat with another student or it is part of an emerging pattern with this individual. You know your child and how they interact with others. For example, is your child timid and the other aggressive? Does your child have a tendency to instigate reactions from other individuals also? You will have to cut through the emotion and determine if your child has truly been a victim in this case. Your parental instinct is critical here. Step in if you are convinced they are being bullied. If there seems to be no particular pattern, your child may have some relational issues and is in need of more intentional training in social interaction.