Preventing and Detectin g Bullying

Messages from Chinuch Research Center

Preventing and Detecting Bullying: A Guide for Jewish Parents and Educators

As a Jewish parent or educator, you want to ensure the safety and well-being of your children. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide on preventing and detecting bullying. With practical tips and techniques, you’ll learn how to identify the signs of bullying and take action to prevent it. From creating a safe and inclusive environment to teaching empathy and conflict resolution skills, we’ve got you covered. Let’s work together to put an end to bullying!

No More Bullies: Techniques for Jewish Educators and Parents

As parents of a Jewish child, it can be heartbreaking to see your child being bullied and not know how to help him. This article provides advice about how to guide a child in developing the skills to effectively challenge and prevent bullying. As a parent, you will also learn how to support your child in reporting and managing the problem, should it ever occur.

Preventing Bullying

There is generally no specific reason why someone is picked as a target for bullying. It is, however, often true that those who appear vulnerable are more likely to become targets.

Children, therefore, need to be taught assertiveness. ויגבה ליבו בדרכי ה

It may also be helpful to practice bullying avoidance behaviors, such as walking away or remaining calm under pressure.

Practice makes perfect. So, discussing and practicing these behaviors over time is a good idea for your child’s general development.

In particular:

  • Encourage your child to ‘walk tall’, putting his head up and shoulders back, striding confidently. However, this does not mean to walk in a manner with גאווה.
  • Help your child develop self-confidence and resilience.
  • Discuss potentially threatening situations and how to avoid them. For example, using an alternate route to reach a specific destination.
  • Do not tolerate aggressive, unpleasant behavior, or derogatory remarks towards your child. Explain why this behavior or language is unacceptable and how it makes people unhappy, even if it was meant as a joke. מה דעלך סאני לחבריך לא תעבוד
  • Teach your child techniques (like the ‘trashcan’ technique) to help him discard any unpleasantness aimed at him.

The ‘trashcan’ technique:

This technique is a strong visualization technique used to combat bullying.

When someone says something unpleasant to you, imagine crushing up the words into a little ball and throwing them into a trashcan. Then, replace the words with something positive.

For example:

If someone says, “You’re stupid,” you can throw that away and replace it with “ברוך ה׳, I know I’m intelligent.”

If someone says, “I’m not your friend anymore,” you can replace it with “I will find other friends.”

This is a very powerful, effective tool, reframing the negative with the positive.

  • Teach your child effective social skills to help him avoid exclusion from a group. For example, show him how to ask to join in the group and its activities.

·     Ensure your child knows that physical actions, such as hitting others or kicking, is unacceptable. A self-defense class may help the child understand the difference between aggression and defense, and will teach him how to defend himself without actually being aggressive. This will also help him deal with the bullying, and will prevent him from being seen as a bully.

Detecting Bullying

Children are often reluctant to admit that they are being bullied. Sometimes, this is because they think that telling someone will likely worsen the situation, and sometimes it is because they think the bullying is somehow their own fault.

The bottom line is that nobody asks or deserves to be bullied.

You can sometimes tell that someone is being bullied because of certain indicators:

  • The child’s behavior may change, and he may become withdrawn and non-communicative.
  • He may go out less because he is being excluded from a particular group.
  • He may become reluctant or worried about going to yeshiva or school, and even play truant.
  • He may “develop” headaches or other signs of illness on school days.
  • His academic standing or academic interest may drop. 

However, as a parent, know that there are many things other than bullying that can also cause a child to become worried and lead him to display similar behaviors.

דאגה בלב איש ישחנה You should always encourage your children to talk to you about whatever is bothering them. It may be helpful to create extra opportunities to talk, perhaps by doing things together, such as walking, playing sports, learning, going to shul together, just relaxing, and so on.

You can even say:

‘You seem very quiet. Is anything bothering you?’, or

‘I’ve noticed…. Is there something going on?’

Once you are aware of the problem, you can help your child manage it.

Helping Someone Cope with Bullying

If someone tells you he is being bullied, listen carefully without judgment or emotional response. Use relevant questions to clarify. 

Reassure the child that whatever is going on is not his fault.

Ask how he would like to take it forward and what support he would be comfortable with from you. For example, would he like you to go with him and speak to someone about what is going on?

Encourage a display of self-confidence, for example, by showing the child how to stand and walk confidently. Also, encourage showing little or no reaction to the bullying while making it clear that this is not about tolerating it; it’s about showing that you don’t really care. All this, so that the bully actually gives up.

Encourage the child to develop new skills or interests in order to give him another outlet and a different focus.

  • Never tell anyone to hit the bully or call him names. This is נקמה.
  • Always discuss the experience sensitively, and help the child think through how to cope, even if you don’t feel that what is going on is really bullying.

When (or if) you agree that the school should be approached, do the following:

  • Help the child write a timeline of what has happened. Ensure that he is as specific as possible, as this will help any investigation.
  • Make an appointment to see someone, a  מנהלor  מלמד. Do not just turn up. Your child’s teacher may have strong views about who they would like you to see, so be prepared to be flexible.
  • Make it clear in discussions that you would like to work with the school or workplace to resolve the situation. It is crucial that they do not become defensive and that you do not become accusatory.
  • It will take time to find out what happened. Ask when you might hear back from them, or arrange a follow-up meeting for further discussion.

Make sure that they record any further incidents (including date, time, what happened, witnesses, etc.), and pass this on to the person dealing with the situation. It may also be helpful to keep a record of their responses.

Parenting a Bully

You always hope that your well-brought-up child would not dream of bullying anyone. All you hope for is נחת. But bullies have parents too.

If your child is accused of bullying, you need to take the accusation very seriously.

This does NOT mean rushing down to the school or to the parents of the child being bullied, to confront and accuse them of lying.

Instead, it means listening quietly and rationally to what is being said and focusing on the evidence. You should, of course, ask your child for his side of the story.

Be prepared, however, to consider that your child may be lying to you, especially if the evidence is clear.

You will need to work with the school to develop a solution. The school will probably want to impose sanctions, קנס, and you may also wish to impose some of your own to implement at home.

A Final Thought…

Bullying always evokes strong emotions, often linked to personal experiences. When you are helping someone cope with bullying or are managing a bullying situation, be aware of your emotional responses. They may cloud your ability to offer sensible advice.