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What to do if your child is bullied by an adult

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Posted at 5:19 AM, Feb 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-20 06:23:30-05

Children who are bullied by adults usually don't get talked about in conversations surrounding the bullying problem. It is often a swept aside issue.

Young people who have examples of adult bullying can also struggle with figuring out how power imbalance plays into their situations.

Bullying, by definition, is repetitive "unwanted, aggressive behavior" that involves an imbalance of power, according to StopBullying.gov

If your child complains that an adult has bullied them, there are steps you can take to help.

Having an open conversation with your child is a great first step. Ask your child to describe the bullying behaviors and see if they can identify any factors that may have contributed to these circumstances, according to the Victoria Department of Education and Training.

Young people can sometimes feel like they are being bullied by their teachers. Given the unique relationship between teachers and students, certain questions should be asked upfront.

  • Is the bullying behavior misinterpreted disciplinary action (the teacher is responding to your child misbehaving in class in order to maintain a safe and supportive classroom)?
  • Is your child struggling with their school work and are inquiries into their progress making them distressed?
  • Does your child have these same concerns about other teachers and if so could this pattern be a result of broader circumstances?
  • Is the teacher unaware of personal circumstances in your family, or sensitivities that might mean that jokes or comments which might be inoffensive to most people upset your child?

Josh Wucher, the Executive Director of Communication for the Waco Independent School District says they have their own system for dealing with adult bullying cases.

Waco ISD takes any report of bullying seriously and investigates fully to ensure the safety and security of our students. Whether a report alleges a child or adult is bullying a student, campuses immediately begin an investigation with the district’s Student Services department assisting when necessary. Additionally, Human Resources conducts a separate investigation if a WISD employee is suspected of bullying or harassment. If a case of bullying is confirmed, a follow-up plan with the child and his/her family is implemented which includes school counselors and additional support services. We encourage any parent, student or employee who suspects a child is being bullied to speak with a campus administrator.

Recognizing that kids aren’t the only people who carry out bullying behaviors – that adults also have a responsibility to examine their own behaviors and what they’re modeling – is an important aspect in creating safe, affirming and fair environments for kids, according to Michigan State University's Janet Olsen.

She says it's important to stay calm if you think your child is being bullied by an adult. You should probe for more information, but be respectful when speaking to the accused adult.

Asking for the opinion of the bullied child is recommended.

"Because kids are at the center of the situation and most at risk for experiencing consequences of any action you take, it’s important to ask how they’d like you to move forward," says Olsen.

Following up with the young person after taking action will also help them know you are taking the situation seriously.

If your child needs additional support, parents should seek help from counselors.