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What to Do If a Child Is Being Bullied

Instructor: Susan Nagelsen

Susan has directed the writing program in undergraduate colleges, taught in the writing and English departments, and criminal justice departments.

We all want to provide a safe environment for the children who are under our care, but what do we do if bullying is happening? In this lesson, you'll learn how to identify the different types of bullying and what steps to take when it occurs.

Understanding Bullying

Bullying happens when strong kids prey on weak kids. It can be physical, psychological, or appear as a threat. Regardless of what form bullying takes, childcare providers and teachers, who spend so much time with children and students, can play a large role in how supported students feel after they're bullied.

Bullying hurts
No More

There is a difference between rude behavior and bullying. Let's take a closer look at the different types of bullying so you will know what it is when you see it.

  • Physical bullying: happens when one person causes physical harm to another, ranging from mild to severe.
  • Verbal bullying: takes place when there are verbal insults, and when these are constant and unrelenting.
  • Relational bullying: occurs when one student threatens to end a friendship with another if he/she doesn't do exactly what the dominant student wants him/her to do.
  • Cyber bullying: takes place when the Internet or digital devices are used to humiliate, embarrass, threaten, or harass someone.

Helping Children Who Are Being Bullied

There are several steps you can take as a childcare provider or teacher when someone in your care or classroom is being bullied. These include:

  • Put yourself between the bully and victim; your goal here is to stop the action from taking place.
  • Let students know what you saw. It is important to keep your voice calm and steady. Let the students know that you will not tolerate any bullying behavior.
  • Impose immediate sanctions, and make sure the consequences fit the action.
  • Talk to the bystanders, and discuss their role in the incident. Did they try to get involved to stop it? If so praise the action. If not, have a conversation about why they did nothing.
  • Make sure you notify the parents and, if appropriate, your colleagues about the incident.
  • Provide support; it is important that the student who was bullied feels supported. You may want to check in on him/her later on to make sure he/she is doing okay.

If bullying is happening, involving the parents is critical. It goes without saying that the parents of a child who is being bullied need to be aware of the situation, but it is also important to reach out to the parents of the child who is the bully. In a meeting with the parents, you can explain the school's bullying policy, describe the incident, and let them know how it is being handled. Education is the key regardless of the situation, and it is important to remember that we want the bully to learn how to behave appropriately towards his or her classmates.

Preventing Bullying

Making sure your classroom is a safe environment for all students is your responsibility. You can do this by taking steps to assure that students understand your philosophy and expectations, while working within the school's bullying policy. On the first day of school, explain your definition of bullying to students so everyone is clear. The best plan is to have both students and parents invested in your goal of providing a safe learning environment for all.

Make your classroom a bully-free classroom
Bully Free

Explain the Policy

Make sure your students understand your classroom policy regarding bullying. If you have a zero tolerance for bullying, then let students know what that means. Some teachers find it helpful to have students read and then sign the policy, acknowledging that they understand and agree to the rules. The more students who buy into the policy, the better the outcome will be.

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