Fort Worth, Texas,
11:17 AM

'This Is One Day I Didn't Have To Worry If My Sweet Boy Ate Lunch Alone'

4 Things Parents Can Do If Their Child Is Involved in Bullying

Parents, do your kids know who Travis Rudolph is?

If not, take a moment to introduce them to the Florida State receiver so they can learn from his wonderful example.

Rudolph was visiting students at Montford Middle School in Tallahassee with other Florida State football players. He saw a boy sitting by himself at the lunch room table and decided to join him for pizza. The boy was named Bo Paske and he has autism.

“I'm not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I'm happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten,” Leah Paske, Bo’s mom, wrote on her Facebook page. “This is one day I didn't have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.”

All it took was a moment of acceptance and kindness to change the day of one child’s life and bring tears of joy to a mom.

And that’s why all of our kids need to know about Travis Rudolph.

Too many times kids who are thought of as different are shunned, picked on or bullied at school.

Many times when we think of bullying, it’s the big kid pushing the little kids around on the playground. In the movies, we love to see the bullied kid “fight back,” but in reality, this is not the best way to take care of bullying.

As a parent, you may be at a loss when your kids come home crying after they had to sit alone at a lunch table, or if we hear that our child was the one making fun of another child with their friends. The best way to help our kids, who may be bullied, the bully or a bystander, is to know the signs of bullying and address them immediately.

Bullying comes in many forms. It can be physical, verbal or relational, and can occur at school, in the community or on electronic technology. The actual definition of bullying is any unwanted, aggressive behavior, involving a real or perceived power imbalance, which is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

This can be excluding someone from a group on purpose, making fun of their appearance or pushing them in the hallway after lunch every day. These things can occur in person, on social media sites or via text messages. Cyberbullying is rapidly growing, in part because the bullies don’t have to actually face the person they are bullying to see the reaction it causes. This form of communication also allows rumors to spread very rapidly to many more people than would otherwise be involved.

How do you pick up on bullying?

  • Have family conversations about school, friends and activities.
  • If your kids have social media, monitor it and have talks about what is posted every week. Most victims of cyberbullying don’t think to tell an adult. They suffer in silence.
  • If your child starts to dislike school, riding the bus or an activity they have normally enjoyed in the past, investigate the reasons. These could be signs of bullying, among other things.

So, as a parent, what are the right things to do if you find out your child was somehow involved in bullying?

  • Address the behavior immediately. If you learn that your child has been bullied, make sure you let them know it was not their fault, and it is not OK for others to treat them that way. If they were aggressive with another kid, make sure they know this is not appropriate behavior.
  • Make sure teachers or group leaders are aware. Most of the time bullying is not happening when you are present, so other adults need to be involved to stop the behaviors while they are occurring or right after. They also can mediate between the groups of kids and their parents.
  • Step in and speak up. If you see bullying in action, separate the kids and let everyone involved (including witnesses) know this behavior is wrong. Make sure everyone is safe. Question each child separately, in private.
  • Talk to your kids. Involve them in coming up with a plan that will make them feel safe. Also, try to keep their normal routine in place, if possible.

It is also important to not only address bullying from the side of the victimized child, but also from the side of the bully. When you are talking to your kids, make sure they are not feeling bullied, but also make sure they are not intentionally or unintentionally bullying others. It’s easier said than done. But talk to them about the example of the Florida State receiver and ask if they would have done the same thing. It might be a great way to have a conversation about this subject.

Sometimes kids bully to “fit in” or because they are dealing with some other major stress in their life. Try to find out the reasons behind the behavior while making sure they know bullying will not be tolerated. Come up with consequences that will encourage them to instead learn to be a good friend and treat other people with respect. You can also find them an appropriate outlet for “fitting in,” such as a joining a sports team, club, etc.

If it seems like your child is deeply impacted by bullying or other traumatic events, then don’t be afraid to involve the school counselor, their pediatrician or other mental health professional to find other ways for your child to cope with any emotional consequences of bullying.

Let’s all work together to help our kids feel safe, and learn to be respectful to one another! If we all took time to find a Bo Paske today, we could make a difference in someone’s life.

Eriel Hayes, M.D.

Photo Credit: Leah Paske

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