"Agitaasiin samtasaa{txin. E / Agitaadaan sahnga{tad. W / Respect your peers." -Unangax (Aleut) Value

"Bullying - Vicky"

Bullying: Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power that has the potential to be or is being repeated. In native peoples, bullying is just one of the many factors that can influence thoughts of suicide in youth, and may seem daunting to tackle, but becoming a parent advocate is not an impossible task.

Some examples of bullying are:

  • If a child is being made fun of for having different clothes or for being raised in a non-traditional household (e.g. by grandparents or a single parent)
  • Making threats, verbal or physical (like acting you’re about to punch someone but stopping short)
  • Theft or destruction of the child's property or school work
  • Physical violence like punching, shoving, or other harm
  • Spreading rumors or gossiping
  • Use of social media to insult, intimidate, blackmail, or otherwise harm in what is known as Cyberbullying.

Click on the headers below to read more about each topic about bullying.

What can I, as a parent, do for my child and their school to stop bullying?

This is a very complicated question that millions of parents face every day. Children who don’t want to go to school to avoid being bullied suffer in school and with friendships in over time. You may have already had to move schools, or if you’re located in the village, there may not be another school to go to. Know that you are not powerless in this situation.

First of all, if your child has told you that they are being bullied, that’s good news in disguise, as they have spoken up for themselves in their discomfort. If your child hasn’t told you, that doesn’t mean that they haven’t been bullied or aren't being bullied right now, as two out of three children don’t like to tell for several reasons:

  • Negative beliefs about “tattling” or “snitching” are persistent through childhood
  • They may be used to “boys will be boys” as an excuse for boys bullying their classmates (which isn't okay)
  • They may think their bully (or their bully’s relations) retaliating against them (or 'payback')
  • They may have a lack of confidence or faith in adults’ actions making a real difference

It is important to speak to your child about the culture they experience in school, and to watch out for signs of bullying. As you may know, kids sometimes have two sides, the side they show you at home and the side they have at school. Make sure the child understands that it is not their fault that they are being bullied. Some things to watch out for in the case of a victim:

  • Unexplained bruising/avoiding talking about injuries
  • Damage to or loss of physical property like torn/wet books, binders, backpacks, jewelry, electronics, or writing on things that isn’t their handwriting.
  • Often having headaches or stomachaches, feeling sick, or faking illness (that is to say, overwhelmingly so, don’t doubt a real sickness!)
  • Changes in eating habits like skipping meals or eating too quickly. They may come home hungry because they didn’t eat lunch that was stolen, or may hide food.
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares, bedwetting that isn't normal for their age
  • Worsening grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, not wanting to go to school
  • Loss of friends or avoiding social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or low self-esteem, may act out in anger against small rules
  • Self-destructive behaviors like running away from home, harming themselves through cutting or banging head/limbs, talking about suicide

Your child could have only one or many of these symptoms of being bullied, but it’s important to ask them first before thinking the worst. Approach the child with your concerns, and let them know that you are there to help and cooperate with them to stop it.

Is my child a bully?

Your child may not be the victim, but the bully instead. Here are some things to watch out for:
  • Getting into physical or verbal fights, increasingly aggressive towards others
  • Having friends who bully others
  • Getting sent to the principal’s or detention frequently
  • Unexplained money or new belongings
  • Blaming others, like siblings/cousins, for problems, avoiding responsibility for their actions
  • Overly competitive/prideful and worry about their reputation or popularity.

People may be eager to blame parents for their children’s inappropriate behavior, but know that there are many reasons why you may not have been aware. In the same vein, don’t go looking for someone to blame for your child’s behavior, or wondering who they picked it up from. This lends a community to “witch hunts” for who is to blame, and can lead to arguments between parents.

You can be a good parent but have a child who is bullying others. Much the same as with a child who is being bullied, it is advantageous to know that your child is a bully, because you can then work out your action plan from there.

How do I engage my community with regards to bullying?

The first thing is, partner up/create a group with those who would be good at gathering parents, teachers, administrators, even bus drivers to discuss bullying. A good way to do that is partnering up with the parent teacher association, mental health professionals/school counselors, law enforcement, service groups or churches, and local businesses. Have a community discussion (without naming names or accusations!) about what kinds of bullying has been witnessed, and develop solutions to that problem. 

Involve the youth/teens of the community! Young adults and teenagers can be mentors to those younger than them, and can take leadership roles to prevent bullying among younger children. With this group, you can find out what is going on and create fliers and/or a system to raise awareness that bullying will not be tolerated in your community. To get more tips on how to do this, visit stopbullying.gov.

For Native-youth-specific materials, you can visit the IHS Behavioral Health Section to download PDF files that you can share, print out, and distribute to your community. See previews below, click for full size.