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Challenges in Parenting: Bullying. Debbie Johnston Teacher, Mother, Advocate. Definition of Bullying. Bullying occurs when one or more individuals inflict physical, verbal, emotional, psychological and/or sexual abuse on another or others.

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Challenges in parenting bullying

Challenges in Parenting: Bullying

Debbie Johnston




Definition of bullying
Definition of Bullying

Bullying occurs when one or more individuals inflict physical, verbal, emotional, psychological and/or sexual abuse on another or others.

Bullying occurs most frequently when teachers/adults are not present.

Researchers continue to confirm that most bullying is hidden, secretive, and devious and that adults are not fully aware of the breadth and depth of the suffering and psychological damage that is occurring.

5 types of bullying
5 Types of Bullying

  • Physical

  • Verbal

  • Emotional

  • Sexual

  • Cyber

Is it really a problem
Is it really a problem?

There have been 37 school shootings since 1974. In two-thirds of these, the shooters believed that they had been persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked and/or injured.

There has been an alarming increase in youth suicide in the last decade. Students are experiencing depression more frequently than ever before. Between 1980-1997, the rate of suicide increased 109% for 10-14 year old students.

74% of 8-11 year old students surveyed report that teasing and bullying occur in their schools. The rate increases to 86% among 15 -19 year olds.

A recent study indicates that in the United States, 5,736,417 students are involved in bullying - as a bully, a target or both.

Journal of the american medical association
Journal of the American Medical Association

The study measured the prevalence of bullying behaviors among youth and attempted to determine an association of bullying and being bullied with indicators of social adjustment: problem behavior, school adjustment, social/emotional adjustment, and parenting.

The sample included 15,686 students grades 6-10 throughout the US. Students filled out a survey that measured their involvement in bullying- either as a bully or as a target.

They found that 29.9% reported being involved: 13.0% as a bully, 10.6% as a target and 6.3% as both.

They concluded that the prevalence of bullying among US youth is substantial, and that given the behavioral and emotional difficulties associated with bullying, as well as the long term negative outcomes for the youth involved, the issue of bullying merits serious attention - both for future research and preventative intervention.

Additional research
Additional Research

  • In another research study conducted in Norway by Dan Olweus, 60% of children identified as bullies between grades six and ten were cited for criminal behavior as adults, and 40% had three or more convictions.

  • A study published in Learning 94 concluded that bullies whose behavior is allowed to continue are five times more likely to be involved with the juvenile justice system, to be convicted of criminal activities, and to have children with aggression problems.

Teasing versus bullying
Teasing Versus Bullying

Teasing occurs when

  • There is a “give and take”.

  • No one gets hurt.

  • Everyone is an equal participant.

  • There are no personal attacks or ganging up on a single person.

    Bullying occurs when

  • One person does all the giving and the other person does all the taking.

  • Someone gets hurt.

  • An imbalance of power exists due to numbers, popularity, or other component.

  • The attacks become personal; the target feels hurt, afraid, humiliated, or threatened.

Four major concerns
Four Major Concerns

  • Bullies

  • Targets

  • Witnesses

  • Teachers


One out of four students identified as bullies by their classmates in the third grade had a criminal record by the age of 28.

Students that bully are more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior, substance abuse, delinquency, vandalism, gang-related violence AND are at a significantly greater risk for suicide.

Bullying behavior can be a red flag for a multitude of other serious problems; abuse/neglect, personality disorder, depression, suicide.

Male bullies were at greater risk to have become abusive husbands. Female bullies were more likely to have become abusive mothers.

Conclusion: Bullying has an enduring effect and has apparent intergenerational transmission.

An ounce of prevention
An Ounce of Prevention

  • Be the person that you hope they will become, but accept and love the person they are now.

  • Set age appropriate expectations and hold them to it.

  • Model respect, compassion, and empathy for others.

  • Practice positive strategies for dealing with negative emotions. (hurt, rage, jealousy, frustration)

  • Provide opportunities to discover the joy of giving.

  • Share books that teach lessons about character.

  • Parent from a position of respect rather than power!

  • Be proactive by sharing your position on bullying behavior BEFORE it occurs, and don’t change your position regardless of who is doing the bullying…

First response
First Response


  • Remain calm and listen objectively and without interrupting.

  • Address this matter with your child in private. Avoid giving them public status and power of handling it in the presence of the target or witnesses.

  • Give them the opportunity to explain the situation from their point of view. *Explanations do NOT excuse bullying behavior!

  • Investigate thoroughly, and try to determine motivation behind their behavior.

  • Impose consequences that include an opportunity to make amends if possible.


  • Become defensive, over-react, blame the victim, retaliate.

  • Make excuses, deny responsibility, shame, or humiliate.

The proactive bully
The Proactive Bully

  • Bullies for the pleasure of it

  • Has no apparent motive

  • Has antisocial traits

  • Does not form attachments

  • Can be cold and calculating

  • Reports high self-esteem


Proactive Bullies need to experience the consequences of their choices. Set the boundaries, establish the limits and enforce the penalties.

Most Effective Strategies:

  • Remove the student from the situation so that they can make a fresh start. ****Best Parenting Practice!

  • Impose meaningful consequences for the incident. Set clear expectations for future behavior and ensure they understand the consequences for escalation or retaliation.

  • Continue to monitor closely while providing counseling and support to teach new strategies to replace inappropriate behaviors.

  • Provide opportunities to earn back trust and make amends.


The reactive bully
The Reactive Bully

  • Bullies in response to a perceived threat

  • Is hyper-vigilant to signs of provocation

  • Does not believe that he/she initiates

    bullying behavior

  • May be or have been a target

  • Reports low self esteem


Reactive Bullies need to develop relationship skills. Refer for anger management, empathy training, mediation and social skills training and problem solving approaches.

Most Effective Strategies:

  • Remove the student from the situation so that they can make a fresh start. ****Best Parenting Practice!

  • Provide counseling and support to help the student develop more positive social skills and improve self-esteem.

  • Use role-playing and drama to help build insights into different perspectives.

  • Provide opportunities to interact with peers in cooperative activities that emphasize helping others. *Tend & Befriend!

  • Provide opportunities to regain trust or make amends.


The elitist bully
The Elitist Bully

  • Bullies because of perceived position

  • Has been corrupted by the power he/she

    acquires because of attractiveness, wealth,

    athletic ability, or parents’ status

  • Does not see themselves as a bully

  • May defend their actions by saying they were

    simply being “honest” with the victim

  • Reports high self-esteem


Elitist Bullies need to become less self-centered. Assign them community service projects, volunteer programs and provide opportunities for creative leadership.

Most Effective Strategies:

  • Remove the student from the situation so that they can make a fresh start. This could mean the loss of power, position, special privileges or approval. ****Best Parenting Practice!

  • Encourage participation in community service that is meaningful and relevant, and focuses on their intrinsic rather than extrinsic worth.

  • Provide opportunities to build relationships with those outside their social or ethnic group.

  • Provide opportunities to regain trust or make amends.



Over 160,000 students stay home from school each day because of fear of what might happen to them at the bus stop, on the bus, the playground, the bathroom, the cafeteria, the hallways, the locker room, the classroom, or walking home from school.

Research has determined that the psychological impact of severe or prolonged bullying is equivalent to the loss of a parent and can result in academic failure, depression, PTSD, eating/sleep disorders, substance abuse, cutting and other forms of self-harm, and suicide.

Today’s target can become tomorrow’s bully. Most of the students involved in classmate shootings had suffered rejection at the hands of their peers.

An ounce of prevention1
An Ounce of Prevention

  • Be involved in their daily life at an age appropriate level.

  • Model respect for others and tolerance for diversity.

  • Practice positive conflict resolution skills.

  • Teach and role play assertiveness. Give them language ideas, scripts and role-playing opportunities.

  • Help them recognize and break any annoying habits that irritate peers and attract bullies. Discuss body language and facial expressions.

  • Support their decisions! Sidekick versus “HERO!”

First response1
First Response


  • Stay calm and listen without interrupting.

  • Be aware of what is NOT said. Read between the lines!

  • Offer encouragement and reassurance rather than advice.

  • Ask your child what you can do to help.


  • Freak out, over-react, make knee-jerk reactions.

  • Pass judgment, assign blame, make threats.

  • Assume that you can handle it better than they can.

  • Dismiss their problem as a “minor” issue.


Help them understand that bullies “shop around” for targets and look for a victim who will:




Fly off the Handle!

They can’t control the actions of the bully, but they do have a choice about how they respond.

Restate your position against bullying,

Refuse to engage in the behavior,

Resist the temptation to retaliate,

Report the problem to a trusted adult!


The six types of witnesses have developed a range of responses.

1. Helper: They have the courage to challenge the bully and/or support the target.

2. Angry: They may become angry at the target for failing to eliminate the situation.

3. Inactive: They build a wall around their feelings to diminish the discomfort.

4. Fearful: They conceal the situation for fear of reprisal.

5. Voyeur: They encourage and support the bully to gain favor with the perpetrator.

6. Accomplice: They become an accomplice.

An ounce of prevention2
An Ounce of Prevention

  • Establish a culture within your home where everyone is treated with respect, and conflicts are promptly addressed and peacefully resolved.

  • Discuss a sense of fairness, justice, and a moral code that reflects the ethics and values of the community.

  • Set the expectation that everyone has a responsibility to intervene when they witness abuse, either directly or by reporting incidents of abuse to the appropriate authority.

  • Review the difference between tattling and reporting, but never dismiss or ignore an incident involving bullying.

  • Make a commitment to keep reports confidential. Don’t spread gossip or encourage acts of retaliation that might escalate into tragedy.

First response2
First Response


  • Listen calmly and without interrupting.

  • Ask leading questions that encourage them to seek solutions.

  • Offer support and reassurance rather than advice.

  • Demonstrate trust and confidence in their decision.

  • Provide moral support by accompanying them to report the event if they don’t feel comfortable doing it on their own.


  • Assume you can handle it better than they can…

  • Resolve the problem for them or betray their trust.

  • Force them to do what YOU think is right.

  • Expose them to an unsafe situation or retaliation.


  • Be proactive by helping develop strategies in advance.

  • Encourage your child to support the target in whatever

    manner they feel comfortable.

  • Role play strategies to use in a variety of situations.

  • Read books that address situations where the character

    has to make a moral decision. Play “What would you do?”

  • Plan opportunities for students to perform community

    service for people outside their own social/ethnic groups.

  • Look for projects that promote a “Tend and Befriend”



A National Education Association study found that:

  • 6,250 teachers are threatened with bodily harm every day.

  • 260 teachers are physically assaulted every day.

  • 5,000 secondary teachers are actually harmed in an average month.

  • Teachers are also witnesses, often experiencing the same responses.

An ounce of prevention3
An Ounce of Prevention

  • Demonstrate your respect for people in positions of authority

    through your words and actions. Follow the Golden Rule!

  • Support the teachers and school in regard to all policies and

    procedures. If you don’t like the policy, address it with

    administration or at a PTA meeting.

  • Be involved in your child’s daily life at an age appropriate

    level, and interact with the other adults in a positive manner.

  • Promote programs within the school or community that

    emphasize character education, bullying prevention, and/or

    teach positive strategies for dealing with negative emotions.

  • Advocate politically for educational reforms that provide a more

    holistic approach to education. Let’s put social and emotional

    development back in the curriculum for early childhood!

First response3
First Response


  • Listen to the facts calmly and objectively without interrupting.

  • Ask questions and keep an open mind.

  • Avoid getting defensive or overreacting. Denial can be your worst enemy by shutting you off to the truth.

  • Understand that privacy laws often prohibit school personnel from giving you all the facts in the case.

  • Make every effort to work with the school to resolve the problem swiftly and effectively.


  • Make threats or disparaging remarks about the victim, their family, the teacher, school personnel involved.

  • Escalate or retaliate by involving other students/parents.

  • Take this as a personal attack on you or your child.

When to call in reinforcements
When to Call in Reinforcements

Acts of bullying break the law when they become extortion, theft, assault, battery, murder, weapons possession, arson, hate crime, hazing, sexual abuse/harassment, rape or a violation of civil rights.

Any single act involving more than minor physical injury or a credible threat of injury to persons or property.

A pattern of abuse lasting for a period of more than two weeks, targets the same victim, or continues/escalates after sanctions have been imposed.

When you suspect abuse/neglect, substance abuse, or other serious underlying cause.

If either the bully or victim exhibits warning signs of depression or suicidal ideation.

Challenges in parenting bullying

For Jeffrey





Keeper of the Stars…