Crime Prevention Corner - Vigilance, communication can help parents spot signs of bullying

Ron Craig, Crime Prevention/Community Policing Officer

        When I was growing up in the 1960s and early ‘70s, kids picking on one another wasn’t called bullying.
        After my tonsils were removed at age 5, I gained weight, that has stayed with me for life. That set me up as an easy target for being picked on.
        I remember complaining to my father about it, and he told me to stand up for myself. Easier said than done, but I never told him again about any harassment I received at school.
        As those of you who may be old enough to remember or who have seen reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show,” you should probably recall how many times the show had a moral to it and told a story about life’s lessons. There was an episode in which Andy’s son, Opie, was being picked on at school, and Andy told him to just fight back. The boy ended up with a black eye, but Opie was proud of it.
        There are those who say today’s kids are “too soft,” and are coddled too much. Regardless of your opinion, there’s no doubt that this is a different day and age. Trying to compare today’s kids with those from 50 years ago is like, as they say, comparing apples to oranges.
        Because of the growing technology, today’s kids have the internet and cell phones to contend with. These two devices are many times the catalysts for the conveyance of bullying, along with face-to-face incidents.
        There are many other things that have changed over the past half century that are also changing the family dynamic, including the number of single parents trying to manage the demands of work, managing a home and raising kids.
        In trying to prevent and address the subject of bullying, one of the best weapons in a parent’s arsenal is open communication with their kids. It is not an easy task, but one that is very important.
        Bonding with your child at the earliest possible age is one key to good communication. Taking a true interest in what they like to do is another. Spending quality time together is a good foundation for trust between a parent and child.
        What makes a mother and/or father a good parent is debatable. Limiting or at least monitoring electronics and spending quality time together can help build relationships and foster communication.
        A youngster is in school only about one third of a weekday and only 9 months of the year. The rest of the time, the parents are responsible. However, school personnel may observe early warning signs through a youngster’s behavior that allow them to alert parents to possible bullying.
        Kids today like their privacy and usually don’t appreciate a parent paying attention to what they are viewing on the internet or on their cell phones. Parents need to tell their kids it is part of a parent’s responsibility to make sure what they are doing is safe.
        The signs of bullying are not always hard to spot. A drastic change in a youngster’s demeanor is one sign. Many kids who are being bullied deliberately miss school to avoid a bad situation, so if your child seems to complain of illness too often, bullying may be a factor.
        What do you do if you think your child is the target of bullying? Having an open and frank discussion with the child is a good starting point. Handling the situation yourself is not a bad thing, but remember to seek the help of others if you do not seem to making any headway.
        Don’t be afraid to talk to a school counselor or outside professional to get advice on how to proceed.
        This article is a public service from the Crime Prevention Division of the Lake Township Police Department. Township residents may obtain further information on crime prevention and public safety topics by contacting Ron Craig, crime prevention specialist/community policing officer, at 419-481-6354.


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