I have a friend Roxanne who complained to me all year that her child was ridiculed by a few boys at his school. Her boy was highly academic and on the small side and didn’t care much for sports. The kids at their school constantly made fun of her child’s physique and called him “skinny” and “dorky”.

Her son, a very sensitive boy in the 6th grade, never complained that much and didn’t want his mom interfering. He feared that the older kids might retaliate even worse and call him a “mama’s boy” if she stepped in and met with the teachers and principals. Finally, at the end of the year, my friend got up the nerve to call several of the parents and ask them if THEIR child had been the object of anyone’s aggression. She asked them if anyone had called them names and she did it from the point of view that she was just trying to get to the bottom of the issue and didn’t accuse anyone. She acted like she had no idea who any of the culprits were and told them that her son hadn’t told her any names. The parents were all surprised that anyone had been negatively singled out at the school and promised to ask their sons about it.

The next day, several of the boys came to school and apologized to my friends’ son.

I have another friend, Linda, whose daughter is in the 4th grade. She’s a beautiful girl and gifted in music. She also does gymnastics and has a very pleasant personality. She’s on the shy and quiet side and comes from a very good and moral family. She’s been taught to respect everyone and to help out the less fortunate. Unfortunately, some of her classmates hadn’t been taught to do the same.

Her classmates have young moms who are still trying to look like teenagers themselves. They drop off their kids wearing short shorts and halter tops, hoping to score a few looks with the married dads. They allow their kids to dress sexy and go to PG 13 movies. They live a bit differently from my friend who is trying her best to protect her daughter from getting exposed to the world at too young of an age. Because my friend’s daughter is on the young side for her class, and a bit shy, she is constantly made fun of for not being able to go to PG 13 movies and for the clothes she wears. The other girls have often started rumors about this young girl and have threatened the other girls that have attempted to be friends with her.

Both of my friends have kids who were bullied. This year, neither of my friends will take it any more. They are going to take action this year!

According to research, bullying can be physical, verbal or relational/psychological. Teasing or spreading rumors is just as damaging psychologically as kicking, biting or hitting. Bullying has long term consequences on kids’ self esteem. Nipping it in the bud early can allow kids the opportunity to blossom and to concentrate on school and their extracurricular activities and not have to worry about their social standing.

Parents need to know that they can and should take action. First, talk to your kids to determine what is happening at the school and casually ask if there are any bullies at the school. It’s possible that your child is being bullied or is a bully without your knowledge. It’s best to take on a supportive tone when dealing with this subject and never take action without your child knowing about it. Getting kids to open up and discuss it by listening to their feelings about it can help you gain trust with your child.

Next, if there is no anti-bullying policy at the school, it’s time to start one! Enrolling help from the teachers, PTA and other parents is the first step. You might need to have a phone campaign to find other interested parties to help. Then, the awareness campaign must begin! Meet with teachers, the principles and students start peer mediation groups will help others take over the role of educating the school. Encourage everyone to speak about it, to discuss it and to brainstorm of ways within the school to deal with bullying. Meet other schools locally to understand how they’ve been able to deal with bullying and research the internet for speakers and organizations who help parents and kids.

The bottom line is this: if your school doesn’t have an anti-bullying program in place, more than likely bullying IS happening at your kid’s school. And whether or not your kid is being bullied or is the bully, its going to take parents who are willing to step up to the plate and teach the kids that it is not acceptable behavior.

Becoming an advocate is one of the best things that you can do for your kids. They’ll learn to take care of things from a leadership point of view by taking action instead of just complaining. And complaining to others creates more frustration. But frustration coupled with strong action plan equal positive results!

Working together, we can stop the bullies! Parents and kids UNITE and stop the bullies!