If you complain to the school that your child is being bullied, will this dis-empower the victim by making him or her feel helpless?

Parents whose child is being bullied at school are in a tough spot, because on one hand, it seems that the best course of action is to report the problem to the school officials and principal.

But on the other hand, could this course make the victim feel as though they lack any power to help solve the problem?

Will this feeling of “I need help to solve all my problems” haunt them throughout adulthood?

“A sad truth about bullying is that, while no one ‘asks for’ or ‘deserves’ to be bullied, there are actually many things that the targets of bullying may inadvertently do that serves to invite, or ‘attract’ bullying behavior,” explains Kyle Gillett, PhD, LMFT, Executive Director and Founder of Solstice East and Asheville Academy for Girls.

He leads groups and conferences on bullying, helping not only victims but also the bullies.

This is not a blame the victim mindset, either. The “invitation” is a human phenomenon, and it’s evident across all age brackets, including at the workplace.

Simply compare coworkers who are harassed to those who are not, and you’ll see common threads in both groups.

Another way to understand this is to imagine you’re back in high school or junior high, and you feel like bullying a classmate. What kind of classmate would you choose?

Gillet continues, “Each situation is a little different, so a blanket statement of how to approach a situation is relatively impossible, but the truth of the matter is that both approaches (complaining to the school and empowering the bully victim) need to be taken to ensure that your child is best protected from bullying.”

Depends on the School

“Many schools these days have very active anti-bullying campaigns, and solid policies that simply do not tolerate bullying,” says Gillet.

“Other schools may not have well-developed bullying prevention strategies, or honestly may be so consumed by attempting to deal with many instances of bullying that singular requests could fall by the wayside.”

Responsibility of School

“Regardless of the situation, it is the responsibility of ALL schools to provide a safe learning environment that allows each child in attendance the ability to access an education,” explains Gillet.

“If the school is not doing this, they can be financially responsible for providing a different environment in which a child’s needs can be met.  Bottom line is, the school should always be at least notified of the occurrence of bullying.”

What can parents do to help empower their child?

Gillet says that parents should educate their children as follows:

– how to identify if you are being bullied

– that it is okay and important to defend oneself if possible in unsafe situations

– how to speak to a parent or adult if you are experiencing bullying

– the importance of not just trying to bully someone back or seek revenge

Dr. Gillett’s career has focused on treating both boys and girls, with specialization in trauma, processing difficulties, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, OCD and difficult family systems.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Bullying: Complaining to School vs. Empowering