Hi everyone, I hope you are having a great day so far. This is part 2 of my series on how to know if your child is being bullied and not telling you. I've hosted several anti bullying seminars for Chicago Public Schools, the girl scouts and theaters in Chicago. This is my way of helping parents stay informed on keeping their kids safe. Here is my final list on this topic of, How to know if your child is being bullied and not telling you.
1. DON'T UNDERSTAND FORMS OF BULLYING - I've explained to all my students 4 different types of bullies. They may not think of these situations so they may not see it as a problem. A physical bully is someone who physically assaults, pushes, punches, kicks, spits on, throws things at, pinches and even licks (yes I said licks, i've seen it). A verbal bully is someone who uses words to intimidate you using mean nicknames, insults, put downs etc. A cyber bully is someone who bothers you using text message, email, social media and the internet. Lastly is the mental bully, one who gets inside your head without even being present. For example, A mental bully might threaten to beat you up next time you go to the bathroom, might threaten to fight you after school, might leave an anonymous note in your locker or desk anonymously threatening you. It's awful, I know, but i'm just sharing a bit of reality with you.
2. SUDDEN DROP IN GRADES - For this you would have to pry a bit before coming to the conclusion that bullying is the source. Ask your child about seating arrangements. In high school I knew this girl who sat at the front of every class she attended so she can focus on understanding the lesson plan for the day. The problem for that was the students would often throw things in her hair because they knew she nor the teacher would see who was doing it. This distraction caused her fear sitting in the front row and it affected her. She's damned if she sits in front, damned if she doesn't. Perhaps the bully is bothering your child, forcing them to give correct answers to questions, become an annoying distraction by interrupting the teacher. I know I personally witnessed people getting smacked in the back of the head while listening to the teacher, getting kicked, getting pencils thrown at, crumbled paper at their head. Who would do this right? Unfortunately it happens even though it makes no sense.
3. THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT BULLYING IS - If your child is not telling you about being bullied, this doesn't necessarily mean they are lying to you. Depending on the child's age, they may not know what bullying is and do not know how to process the situation. If they don't know something is wrong, they won't know how to tell you. Kids young enough to not know what it is should be informed of what situations are acceptable by other students and which are not.
4. DON'T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SNITCHING AND REPORTING - This situation happened with me personally this past week. Someone said " _______ is such a snitch? I asked, why are they a snitch? She said "because she told the teacher who kicked her in the shin" (she was limping). I immediately explained, that was reporting. That wasn't snitching. Reporting is something you absolutely must do because it endangers someone. Snitching is petty non sense. The good rule I gave them was, if you see someone doing something that you would want to be done to your younger siblings, you need to report it. No child wants to be labeled a snitch and because of this, they refrain from telling people. Please explain the difference to them, it could help end a bad situation.
5. ASK THEIR FRIENDS IF THEY THINK THEY WOULD TELL YOU IF THEY ARE BEING BULLIED - This is more strategy than simply expecting a straight answer. A lot of times kids are afraid to speak up for fear that their parents will make things worse, embarass them at school, make a scene, make the bully even more angry. At that age, the thought of escalation is unbearable. If you find out your child is afraid of telling you something because of your reaction, this may be a way to find out.
6. AFRAID OF BEING ALONE -- If someone uses fear to manipulate your child, they may be afraid of running into them at any point. When I was a child, there was a clown scare much like the one 2 years ago. One of the teachers at our school had a relative who was killed by a "clown". This put fear in all of us. I no longer even wanted to take the garbage to the alley for fear the clown would appear. I was afraid of going to the bathroom alone, I was afraid to walk up the stairs at our house because I was afraid "It" would grab me in that short time. The situations are different but the fear is the same.
7. BULLYING SIBLINGS - If there has been a sudden change in behavior towards your childs siblings/younger relatives, this can be a sign. They are mimicking the behavior they see their bullies carrying about. They may see it as an opportunity to control someone else to get what they want. "If it's easy for a bully to take what they want, why can't I do the same?"
8. UNEXPLAINED SUDDEN MOOD SWINGS - This can be a child who has simply had enough. Built in frustration and "holding it in" can come out in the form of a sudden mood swing. Especially if someone bothers them at home, which can be seen as the one place they should feel absolute safety.
9. HOW THEY RESPOND TO QUESTIONS - You can find out a lot by asking your child how other classmates would deal with a bullying situation. If they say things like "well the teacher won't do nothing, there's no point, nothing will happen". This can be a sign that they don't feel the need to speak up because their teacher or person of authority "won't do anything anyway"
10. DAMAGED CLOTHING - Bullies love harassing in any way shape or form. Ripped clothing can be a way to feel superior over someone who you know will not be able to fight back, or won't fight back. It's a way of establishing dominance. Once or twice is not a big deal. If this is a repeated pattern, you may have a problem and please don't hesitate to pry a bit.
REAL LIFE STORIES...
I wanted to share the story of a 6th grade middle school student of mine who had recently transferred from a different middle school. We were having a group discussion about bullying and he wanted to share his story of why he had transferred to that particular school. He said at his old school, he asked the teacher permission to use the bathroom. When he came back, there were 29 different comments on his desk making fun of his weight. That was the final straw for him to transfer out of that school. It was meant to seem like each comment was from a different student he said, so whoever did it wanted to give them impression everyone had writtten it. That may be unlikely but there's a lot of truth to his story, I spoke to his mom who confirmed that's the way it happened.
The purpose for this article was to inform people with children of ways they can spot and put an end to an issue "nip it in the butt" before it progresses. I will write more safety based blogs in the future, and I hope you found this article useful. Please SHARE it on your social media if possible and we might help others. I can't be there to defend every child against a bully, but that's why I talk to them about what to do and teach self defense. It's the one way I know how to help. Thank you for reading and keep having a safe day :)
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