If your child is a victim of bullies, there are things that you, the parent, must not do — as well as things you absolutely should do. You don’t even want to get these mixed up.
“The first, and probably hardest thing to do when a child is bullied is to stop and think,” says Rona Novick, PhD, who developed the BRAVE bully prevention program.
A clinical psychologist, Dr. Novick has worked with schools nationally on the issue of bullying, and is director of the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Doctoral Program at Yeshiva University, NY.
Figuratively speaking, don’t rush to put out the fire. Don’t “head up the posse to find and punish the bully,” says Dr. Novick.
This kind of direct intervention can make the situation worse, says Novick. Take time to think and be strategic, even if the bully lives next door.
“Rescuing a bullied child, by inserting yourself in their social life, can actually further mark the child as socially less-than his or her peers,” Dr. Novick explains.
“Confronting, threatening, or trying to reason with bullies can be equally ineffective, and can actually put the victim at risk for retaliation.”
Parents often insist that school officials take action, thinking that the school doesn’t seem to be taking the problem seriously.
However, this doesn’t mean the school isn’t getting to work on the issue. Confidentiality laws prevent schools from revealing information about students to parents, while meanwhile, intervention strategies are in process.
What parents should not do when their child is bullied is to blow off the school as a possible recourse for intervention.
What parents should never do when their child is being bullied is to underestimate a school’s expertise and not appreciate its legal limitations.
Dr. Novick also adds that parents should be acutely aware of the temptation to confront parents of bullies. “Beware! These parents may not share your views, and may endorse their child’s behavior.”
Ever see the “Brady Bunch” episode where Mike Brady confronts the father of Buddy Hinton, who’s been bullying Peter? The father subtly threatens to beat up Mike, who exits, and the issue goes unresolved at that point.
“If you choose this option, tread lightly and do not expect great results, but some parents will want to work with you to solve a problem,” says Dr. Novick.
Finally, what a parent should not do whose child is being bullied is to try to get the bully to apologize in person to the victim.
Dr. Novick absolutely does not endorse this. “It is too chancy, can easily turn into a humiliation that results in revenge. Apology letters are an alternative, but again, beware of inciting the bully to want to get revenge for being humiliated.”