Step One: Listening
The first step I recommend is for parents to listen when the student talks about his or her friends. As you know, bullies will often put other children down just to make themselves look good. I ask parents to observe if their child speaks derogatively about others when she or he speaks about her or his day? I certainly do not advocate that parents eavesdrop on their children.
However, my client Andrew found a way to observe his daughter Lacy’s behavior when he drove Lacy and her friends home from soccer practice. Andrew stated, “I heard Lacy plotting with her friends to tease another girl in the class. When I told Lacy later that I disapproved of her behavior, she just laughed and said that the girl was annoying and deserved to be teased. I was horrified!”
Step Two: Watching
A second step is for parents to watch how their child treats his or her siblings. I explain to parents that if their son or daughter teases or bullies his or her younger siblings, chances are he or she acts the same way in the classroom. My client Max had two boys, Larry, age 12, and Simon, age 8. Max stated, “I never picked up on it before, but the other day I noticed Larry demanding Simon lend him his CD player. When Simon said no, Larry started to push him around.”
Step Three: Talking to Teachers
In addition to listening when the student talks about his or her friends, and observing how the student treats siblings, a third step is for parents to talk to the student’s teacher, and to other parents. Clearly, teachers are good sources of information about a child’s social interactions. Additionally, other parents may have information about children who may be involved in bullying.
Step Four: Monitoring the Media
A fourth step is for parents to monitor their child’s media diet. I ask parents to notice if their son or daughter is hooked on violent video games or movies. Could they be bringing the modeled confrontational attitudes to school. Or, does their son or daughter spend leisure time watching shows in which characters frequently ‘dis’ each other? Does she or he seem to admire these characters? I encourage parents who answer yes to these questions to take an opportunity to make it clear to their child how they feel about the matter.
For 5th, 6th and 7th Steps for Assessing Bullying go to Risk Management Course