Much of what we do at Willows Pediatrics concerns combating disease and maintaining physical health. Yet there is also a large behavioral and emotional component to being a pediatrician, and we do our best to counsel our patients and their parents as they go through developmental stages and experience life’s challenges.
We’ve read studies reporting that 20-30% of students in school are involved in bullying (either as the bully or the victim), making bullying an issue we would like to address.
Bullying is defined differently in different venues, but one accepted definition is that, “a person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.” The Westport Public Schools have a detailed bullying policy, which includes punishment for bullying behavior that takes place in school, on school property or at school-sponsored events.
Talking to your child is the most important part of keeping him or her safe. For young children you can play-act a bullying scenario and practice what he or she should say to a bully. It’s important to teach your child to use words like “Please do NOT talk to me like that” and actions like staying calm and knowing when to walk away. It is also important to let your child know that bullying is not his or her fault … and that he or she should not be afraid to ask an adult for help.
For older children, bullying can be more subtle and can also involve Cyberbullying. Since it can be harder to get teens and adolescents to open up, keep alert for changes in your child’s behavior such as frequent headaches, stomachaches, and frequently feeling down. Any of these could be a sign of bullying.
On the flipside, if your child is bullying others, we encourage you to take this very seriously. The AAP has noted that when bullies become adults they are much less successful in their work and family lives, and may even have trouble with the law. It’s best to treat these behaviors when children are young. Some things you can do include:
Set firm and consistent limits on your child’s aggressive behavior. Be sure your child knows that bullying is never OK.
Be a positive role model. Children need to develop new and constructive strategies for getting what they want.
Show children that they can get what they want without teasing, threatening, or hurting someone. All children can learn to treat others with respect.
Use effective, nonphysical discipline, such as loss of privileges. When your child needs discipline, explain why the behavior was wrong and how your child can change it.
Help your child understand how bullying hurts other children. Give real examples of the good and bad results of your child’s actions.
Develop practical solutions with others. Together with the school principal, teachers, counselors, and parents of the children your child has bullied, find positive ways to stop the bullying.
As health care providers we recognize that bullying is a health concern, not just a social one. We want all of our patients to grow up confident, healthy, and well adjusted. Therefore, we hope that if you have concerns about your child and bullying of any nature, you will feel comfortable discussing them with us. It takes just a moment to make an appointment for a consultation or ask to speak to your doctor or PA; and we are happy to talk with you and help put a stop to the bullying. If necessary, we can also refer you to a counselor or other behavioral expert.
By Pink Sherbert Photography