Parents urged to discuss bullying with kids
With another school year about to begin, New Jersey parents are being encouraged to sit down with their kids and talk about bullying.
"Talk to them about values, what's okay and not okay, how do we treat other people, and also how do we deserve to be treated," said child psychologist Dr. Steven Tobias.
He stressed it's important to be clear with children that "no one has the right to put you down, no one has the right to make you feel bad, to pick on you, to harass you, to hurt you physically or emotionally in any way. This is something that parents don't often talk directly to kids about and it is important.
He also said social exclusion is a hurtful form of bullying that takes place with girls more often than boys.
If your kids are bullied, he said it's good for parents to "problem solve" with them.
"Some kids have good assertive skills and can stand up to the bully and tell them to stop," Tobias said. "But other kids may not have those skills so it's better to not try to encourage them to do something they may not be capable of doing. If the kid is more comfortable telling the teacher, that's fine, if the kid is more comfortable telling a friend and then the friend tells the teacher, if the kid is more comfortable coming home and telling the parent, that's okay too, but the most important thing is that the kid does something."
He added most bullies rely on kids being passive and not doing anything about it, and not standing up for themselves or telling an adult.
"We want to empower kids to do something to deal effectively with the problem situation, but in a way that they're comfortable doing - it's something that's genuine to them," he said.
Tobias said bullying is now against the law in New Jersey and it's the school's responsibility to do something about it, so parents need to inform school officials about what's going on. He also said it's important to stress to your kids that they should not be bullying anybody.
"You want to talk to your kids about how we treat other kids and we do want to treat them with respect and kindness, even if we don't like them or whatever," he said. "By talking about how other people feel when they are bullied, kids will be able to empathize with them."