Bullies, the Bullied and How to Deal with Bullying

by Lois Rubin Gross

I have a young friend. She is the sweetest, smartest child you would ever want to know. She is great at art and loves to read. She is not a “girly girl.” She prefers jeans and skater shorts to princess dresses, and usually wears a cap pulled down because she is somewhat shy. She wears striped t-shirts with nary a ruffle in sight. She has also been the victim of school bullying. Dressing differently and having divergent interests from other girls has made her a target of taunting and teasing and, while her school may have an anti-bullying policy, it was not implemented to protect her.

Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/790902

Everyone knows about bullying. No one approves of it. Yet, you may have a child at home who is being bullied or, worse still, might be a bully. “Not my child!” you say, but every bully has parents and many of those parents are in denial. When my daughter was in first grade, two of her classmates told her to “trust” them, took her by the hands, and walked her into a basketball hoop, breaking her front teeth. One child could easily have been identified as a bully: aggressive, mean, physically bigger than my daughter. The other child, however, was bright, beautifully dressed, talented and the daughter of a teacher. Her mother, when confronted with her daughter’s actions, denied that her daughter could have had any part in an act of playground bullying. In those days, bullying policies didn’t exist and I was told that this was just a case of a playground accident. I, of course, knew differently. So did my daughter’s dentist who had to repair her permanent teeth.

There are many, many books to help you deal with the subject of bullying. From a parent’s or teacher’s perspective, a good one to check out is No Room for Bullies: from the Classroom to Cyberspace, edited by Jose Bolton and Stan Graeve. While aimed at slightly older children (many “bully” theme books seem to be aimed at older children and teens, as if young children are not capable of teasing other children), this book will help you identify bullying behavior and give you tactics on calmly bringing it to the attention of the school and dealing with the emotional consequences for your child.

Also check out Pacer Kids Against Bullying. This is a terrific site for younger kids with activities, storytelling, and games that reinforce positive behavior and how to stand up to bullies or stand behind classmates who may be the victims of bullying.

An educational PBS website It’s My Life helps children understand why kids bully, who is a bully, and how they can be strong and brave enough to stand up to bullies.

There are, quite literally, dozens of books now on the subject of bullying. While some are factual and give children ways to identify bullying behavior and how to bring it to the attention of parents and other adult authorities who can intervene, young children may do best with fiction books that can open a discussion with parents on how they feel about being picked on. Here are just a few good titles to start the dialogue with your child:

Chester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully by Audrey Penn
Young raccoons find the best remedy for bullying is to make the bully into a friend.

Three Bully Goats by Leslie Kimmelman
Three bullies taunt a kind ogre until he finds a way to make them behave.

Zoom! Boom! Bully! by Jon Scieska
An early reader that shows how cooperation can stop a bully truck in his tracks.

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage to be Who You Are by Maria Desmondy
Lucy is one of a kind and Ralph loves to tease her, but when Ralph needs help Lucy comes to his rescue.

If your child is old enough to need survival skills beyond learning to play together or cooperate, you may find the following non-fiction book to be useful:

Stand Up for Yourself and Your Friends: Dealing with Bullies and Bossiness and Finding a Better Way by Patti Criswell

Of course, the most important thing to reinforce is that, if your child is uncomfortable with a teasing or taunting situation, they need to come to you or to another adult authority. Not every incident requires your intervention. As we all know, too many calls to the school will earn you the reputation of being a “helicopter parent” and you do want your child to develop their own coping skills. However, knowing that your support is always there while your child develops the strength and strategies to stand up to other children are skills that will serve him or her well throughout their lives.

Lois Rubin Gross has an MS in Library Sciences from Drexel University. She is currently Senior Children’s Librarian at the Hoboken (NJ) Public Library. She has also worked as a librarian for children with special needs. She is a book reviewer for Children’s Literature and a blogger for After Fifty Living and Wise Women Now. Join her Facebook book community Lois Storylady.

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