QUESTION: Is there a way to talk to a child’s parent about his son being a bully? My child has not experienced this terrible behavior, but two of his friends have, and I have thought it would be good if I talked with his parents about it. What do you think?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: I guess it would be OK to talk with the parents, but I do not know how you would go about talking to them. This isn’t my department.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: The word “bully” is a strong one that shouldn’t be used lightly — bullying is a serious matter with potentially devastating consequences, and if we attach that word to any kind of bad behavior, it will lose its effectiveness. It will also lose its effectiveness if you step in to handle a situation by yourself that doesn’t involve your child but instead is something you have heard happened to other children.
As schools step into address problems with bullies and to define them, it’s up to the parents of the victims to speak up and let someone know that their child is struggling with a bully. I don’t think it falls to you, on your own, to approach a parent whose child may or may not have bullied other children. You may lose some of the details in retelling a story that you didn’t see or learn about from the source. If you’re worried about your child being around the other boy, then limit the time or make sure it is supervised. If you witness the behavior, then explain what you saw to the parents of the child.
If possible, avoid calling the child a bully or else you won’t solve the problem and you’ll end up putting the parents on the defensive.
Bullying is a serious problem that shouldn’t be ignored; however, it’s hard to step in alone if you don’t directly see the action or how it affected the witnesses.
HELEN’S ANSWER: First and foremost, you probably need to define “bully.” Are they calling the boys names? Hitting them? Teasing them? Writing derogatory comments on Facebook? Any of the above is not acceptable behavior.
The parents of the children involved should take it up with the offender’s parents and you can encourage them to do. Then, let them take it from there. The behavior needs to be stopped immediately and will only stop when someone notices and take action. Be as honest as possible when encouraging the parents. Tell them if it were your child, you would want to know.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Joe Hight: The Oklahoman’s director of information and development: Consider talking to the two other children’s parents first and see if they would be willing to come with you to talk to the “bully’s” parents. Then meet for coffee or lunch and express to the “bully’s” parents what you know about the child’s behavior. Do not call the child a “bully”; just simply state what you know to have occurred.
If the behavior continues, take the matter to school administrators so the behavior can be stopped immediately.
Parents should also talk to their own children about bullying and explain why it’s unacceptable. For more information, this government website has useful information: www.stopbullying.gov.
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