"We're finally identifying it as separate from a one-on-one fight or sibling rivalry or two kids just in a little scuff at school. It's an issue of contempt for another human being. That's very different than settling a conflict between the two of us," says author Barbara Coloroso.
Since kids will not talk about the issue for fear of retaliation or shame, here are some signs Coloroso says parents should look for to find out if your child is being bullied:
- Torn or missing clothing
- Immediately going to the bathroom when your kid comes home. "At school, the bathroom is not a safe place."
- Being famished even though the kid had enough money for food
- Angry or sad behavior after being on the phone or computer – bullying is done these days via Internet or cell phones.
- Out of character behavior – like stealing
- Drop in school grades or lack of desire to go to school
Here are some antidotes Coloroso offers to break the cycle of violence, "which attacks both the bully and the bullied, but also the bystander, which are the majority of your children."
- Sense of self – "Children need to have a strong sense of self. Bullies have big egos. They do not have a strong sense of self. If you have a strong sense of self, you won't bully and won't succumb to the bullying," Coloroso says.
- Teach friendliness – "You also need to teach your child to be a good friend because good friends don't bully. If you teach them to have good friends, you're less likely to be targeted, because bullies aren't stupid."
- Teach social skills – "It's real important that we give all of our children the social skills they need to get into a group successfully, not barge in or stand by and wait for somebody to invite them. But to know how to get in to a variety of groups, but more importantly, how to get out when that group wants to do harm to somebody else. When all the girls say, 'Let's exclude her from lunch, I want your girl to be the one who says, 'That's mean. I don't want to exclude her'."
Coloroso's message to parents about this issue? "A Holocaust survivor said it so well: 'If we really want to break the cycle of violence, pay attention, get involved, and never, ever look away,' because it happens to all of our children. They are either the bully, the bullied or the bystander. We have to break this cycle of violence," she said.