Thursday, March 31, 2011

What is the first sign of bullying

The above link is to an article published in the Mar/Apr issue of Lifestyles of Denton County under the title “The Good, The Bad and The Bully.” But as I read through the list of “warning signs” I was disturbed and angry. Toward the bottom is “they refuse to talk about what is wrong.”

• Afraid to walk to and from school or change their usual walking route
• They don’t want to ride the bus or they beg you to take them to school
• They are afraid to go to school
• They pretend illness in the mornings or they begin truanting
• They start doing poorly in their school work
• They often bring home destroyed clothing or other belongings
• They come home famished (bully takes their food money or lunch)
• They act withdrawn, start stammering, lack confidence
• They become distressed and anxious and sometimes stop eating
• They attempt or threaten suicide
• They cry themselves to sleep or have nightmares
• Their personal belongings go missing
• They ask for money or start stealing (in order to pay the bully) or they
continually lose their pocket money
• They refuse to talk about what’s wrong
• They have unexplained cuts, abrasions, bruises
• They begin to bully other children, siblings or they become aggressive
and unreasonable
• They give improbable excuses for any of the behaviors listed above

Why do kids refuse to talk about what is wrong? Why are these warning signs so severe? Shouldn’t the first warning sign for us as parents be that our child tells us “someone is picking on me”? In An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong, the main character Chrissa says nothing about the bullying incidents that occur with her first few days at a new school. She doesn’t confide in a teacher, her parents, or even her brother. Why are our kids being programmed to think that have to keep it to themselves? Is it just the bullies that are warning our kids not to tell? Are “we” as parents not encouraging our kids to talk to us about ANYTHING and encouraging them to confide in us?

I for one explain to my girls the difference between tattle-tale and when you need to tell on someone. I try hard to keep the lines of communication open with my children—which can be exhausting because they can talk A LOT!

Don’t wait until you think something is wrong. If your child refuses to talk about anything, consider that a warning sign. Then, instead of badgering them, try asking yourself what you can do as a parent to be more open and encouraging. Ask yourself in what ways can you “set the scene” for open and honest communication with your child so that the other more severe warnings signs don’t have to come into play.

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