Bullying: What Every Parent Should Know by Dr. Jerry Weichman

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I was fortunate enough to connect with Dr. Jerry Weichman‘s wife through my blog. Seeing that October is National Anti-Bullying Month, and Dr. Jerry Weichman specializes  in adolescents, I thought the topic of bullying might be right up his alley. This is a really important topic to me since my daughter just started Kindergarten and we are now in the grade school years. I thought it would be a very powerful post if he could give us expert advice on how we can start educating our children early about what bullies are, what they can do, and what warning signs to look for in our own children. This article is full of valuable information on bullying and what every parent should know.

Dr. Jerry did a presentation on this very topic recently for Corona del Mar High School called “Be the Anti- Bully: There Is No Such Thing as an Innocent Bystander.” When reading that news story, it almost brought tears to my eyes.  I have such a sensitive heart, and the thought of children being bullied, teased or picked on just breaks…my…heart.

So I jotted down the first four questions that came to mind as a parent that I would want to ask Dr. Jerry on this topic. If you have more questions for him, please leave a comment below and he will be responding to our comments!

Bullying: What Every Parent Should Know
by Dr. Jerry Weichman

1.  How can we talk to our YOUNG children about what “bullies” are (and should we even use the word “bully” at a young age?)

Dr. Jerry: I think that it is important for parents to use the word “bully” so that younger kids learn to identify the behavior when they see it and understand what others are talking about if they hear it in a conversation.

These are the main points you want to convey to your children in this discussion:

– All people are for the most part good people. Life (and bullying) is not as black and white as people would like. It’s important not to label kids as “bad” due to bullying behaviors, especially at a young age. Even bullies usually have good qualities but they are usually unhappy and hurting, which is why they are acting out.

– The kids that are mean often have problems in their lives: their parents fight or are not together anymore, they do not feel good about themselves, or someone else may be bullying them, etc.

– Teaching your kid to feel sorry for bullies is one approach. Learning empathy at a young age often helps kids rise above the bully’s behavior and the victimization will take less of an emotional toll on them.

2. What should we tell our children to do if they witness someone being unkind or mean to another child?

Dr. Jerry: They should feel as though they can stand up for what’s right and tell bully to stop. It is important to empower your child to be an “active bystander” which is the quickest way to curtail a bully’s behavior.

You are helping them build integrity this way. Bullying is not cool and your kids should be so confident in that fact that they can speak up when they see something wrong.

However, if the bully ignores your child’s attempt or tries to engage them, you should instruct your child to instead tell a teacher or aide. It’s important that they understand that this is not “tattling” on the bully but instead helping to stop a behavior that is harming someone else.

If there is no action from telling a teacher or aide, remind your child to always tell you what they see and, if appropriate, you can (along with your child) alert an administrator.

3. As a parent, is it better to get involved right away or empower your kids to try to handle the situation if they are getting bullied? At what point is it a parent’s responsibility to talk to a teacher or principal?  I think many parents are probably confused on what falls into the category of “kids being kids on the school yard” vs. what warrants contact with the school authorities.

Dr. Jerry: Two of the defining characteristics of bullying are that the bully targets the same individual and the behavior is repeated.

Initially, it is beneficial to try to have your child deal with issues on their own. However, if your child reports repeated bullying behavior with the same individual, you need to stand in and get involved.

It has been my experience that speaking with the parent of the bully typically does not go well and often creates bigger problems both with the kids and with the parents alike. If your child is dealing with a repeated behavior from the same individual, you absolutely need to go to the top and approach the school administrators and go through those channels.

If the behavior does not stop, go back again.

There is major liability on the school’s side if they fail to stop the detrimental bullying behavior and they know it.

4. What are the warning signs that your child might be getting bullied?

Dr. Jerry: These warning signs could mean your child is struggling and should prompt your action to get involved. These warning signs include:

– Changes in sleep (more or less)

– A change in their normal routine (who they eat with, the route they come home)

– Difficulty concentrating

– Changes in food (more or less)

– Increased irritability

– Drop in grades

– Refusal to go to school

– Increased fighting or bullying of siblings and even the family pet

– Becoming withdrawn

– Not finding pleasure in normally enjoyable activates

– Complaints of persistent stomachaches, headaches, or “feeling sick”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Dr. Jerry is a noted public speaker throughout Southern California on a variety of adolescent-related topics.  Through November 2011, if a school or organization mentions Tiny Oranges when booking Dr. Jerry for his “Be the Anti-Bully: There is No Such Thing as an Innocent Bystander” presentation, they will receive a $500 discount off of his $1,500 speaking fee.

Jerry Weichman, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist focused solely on teen and preteen issues. Based out of his private practice at Hoag Hospital’s Neurosciences Institute in Newport Beach, Dr. Jerry is also an author of a teen self-help book, “How to Deal,” and a noted public speaker on teen-related topics including parenting, bullying, and adolescent coping skills. He also is on the board of directors for the Bullying Prevention Initiative of California. For videos and tips for tweens,teens and parents, visit www.drjerryweichman.com

Facebook.com/DrJerryWeichman * Follow @DrJerryWeichman on Twitter


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  1. 1

    Thank you for your article. Both of my sons were bullied and I have listed some tips and tricks for dealing with childhood bullies on my blog:

  2. 2
    Pam says:

    Great article for all parents …they will all at least witness it at some point, if not be bullied themselves. It’s important thing to talk about with them! This was so helpful!

  3. 3
    Dr Jerry says:

    I am so glad you got something positive out of the piece. As with all “critical conversations” with your kids, talk to them about bullying several, casual conversations versus one big talk. It keeps the lines of communication open and the topic as a top of mind issue.

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