Tips on Responding to Bullying

Unfortunately, bullying exists.  Bullying is a problem for many youngsters in social settings, but those with disabilities face additional challenges.  And responding to bullying can be difficult for both the victim and parents alike.  While those with disabilities like Cerebral Palsy may be at a higher risk for bullying, this does not mean that this should be accepted without action.  There are proactive measures available that can address such cruel harassment.  We’ve compiled a helpful list of tips that may be able to help children and parents both better respond to and prevent bullying. 

Issue: The motivation for one child to bully another can be rooted in perceiving others as “different” and not understanding them.

Response: Education.  Since the impulse to bully can stem from a lack of understanding of conditions and disabilities, educating children about them can help to mitigate this impulse with knowledge and sympathy. 

Cultivating compassion through understanding can help reduce the likelihood of bullying.  The responsibility of educating children should be shared by both schools and parents, and this education is most beneficial when children are young so that they can establish their understandings of disabilities while developing their perspective of the world and the people in it. 

When children understand that having a disability does not define someone, and that those with disabilities enjoy many of the same things anyone else would, it breaks down barriers of alienation.  This, in turn, can reduce a key cause of bullying. 

Issue: Bullying often happens at school, while parents are away and unable to directly intervene.

Response: Get involved.  There are plenty of ways to make a stand against bullying even if direct intervention in real time is not possible.  Taking initiative by, for example, starting an anti-bullying club at school, can have real effects. 

Raising awareness is a great weapon to combat the prevalence of bullying.  Some activities the club could promote include spreading anti-bullying information through morning announcements, creating posters to put in hallways, or even suggesting a school play be put on about bullying.  All of these things raise awareness in unique ways, attempt to establish an environment of tolerance, and aim to help change the collective attitude about bullying. 

Knowing what the punishments are for bullying and advertising them can also help deter future occurrences.  In the event that bullying is witnessed by a parent or schoolteacher, it is crucial that proactive intervention takes place to establish the precedent that it is not ok or mere “child’s-play.”  Remaining calm, talking to all the parties involved, and taking the appropriate steps forward will help to curb problems.    

Issue: Sometimes it can be difficult to detect if a child is the victim of bullying.

Response: Communicate.  Open communication is imperative to discover not only how a child’s day has gone, but also to discover potential problems that the child may not be keen on discussing.  Make it a regular part of the day to sit down with your child and freely discuss both the things that were exciting and problematic. 

Signs of bullying include: feeling depressed, unwillingness to talk about their day, malingering, decrease in academic and social interests, low self-esteem, and becoming a bully themselves.  Noticing these signs can help indicate when open communication is needed and hopefully get to the bottom of why such signs are present. 

The better communication flows between child and parent, the better for everyone.  Knowing what’s going on is a key first step in the process of addressing bullying; from there, appropriate discussion with your child and even action on your behalf can take place. 

Bullying is a pressing problem, but together, it can be overcome.  We hope that this list offered helpful advice, but would like to hear ideas and feedback from you!