Bully, victim both need adult help

PARENT Q & A

April 23, 2000|By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. | T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.,New York Times Special Features

Q. I read your advice to the woman whose grandchild was being picked on at school. As chairperson of the Parent Focus Group for the Ribbon of Promise National Campaign to End School Violence (www.ribbonofpromise.org), I disagree with your solution. Children cannot handle the bully's behavior by themselves. They need the positive reinforcement of an adult to show the bully that such behavior is unacceptable.

What parents should do when their child comes to them about bullying is support them and praise them for coming forward. Then they should go to the child's school and make sure the adults there understand that the child who is being bullied is not the problem. The bully's behavior is the problem.

The parents of the bully should receive counseling recommendations for their child, and the school staff should stay on top of the situation.

A. I worry about the child who must be a bully to prove himself. I worry, too, about the bullied child, for he may learn to present himself as a vulnerable target. As adults, we surely need to take roles in helping both of these children. But unless we know the children, it's hard to give appropriate advice. Parents must evaluate the situation and do what is right for their child. Perhaps our advice, together, will help them come to the right decision.

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