Bullying is a serious problem for a lot of kids, and many schools are addressing it. But the conversation should also happen at home with parents and kids. KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen talks with a local principal about bullying and what parents can do about it. Here’s the edited conversation between Kristine and Molly O’Malley-Argueta, principal of Allegheny Traditional Academy in Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Kristine Sorensen: A lot of people talk about bullying, but there are some misconceptions about what it really is. Help define bullying.
Molly O’Malley-Arugeta: Before I get to bullying, I want to talk a little bit about rude behavior and mean behavior first.
So, rude behavior is a one-time incident. Although the child’s action may have been intentional, he/she really didn’t mean harm. One example I always like to give, that may be a little bit gross but kids will relate to, is, if a child walks up to another child and burps in her face intentionally, it is rude. No one should do that.
If it persists, meaning there might be one or two more incidents that the child intentionally did to make another child feel bad, but then it stops, that is mean behavior. It is inappropriate, and the child shouldn’t have done it, but then it stops.
We start seeing bullying when it’s an ongoing, intentional, mean behavior. And there’s an imbalance of power.
Kristine Sorensen: Bullying can come in many different forms, right?
Molly O’Malley-Argueta: Absolutely. It could be verbal, cyber or physical.
Kristine Sorensen: If you identify that your child is being bullied, what should you, as a parent, do?
Molly O’Malley-Argueta: Go to the principal. Make an appointment or go to the office the next day. Have a conversation with the school administration. Each district has a policy on bullying, and the administration should be able to get the steps in motion so that your child isn’t subjected to that anymore.
Kristine Sorensen: How do you talk to your kid about it if you think he or she may be bullied?
Molly O’Malley-Argueta: I always like to get the whole story, so begin a conversation. Ask your child what happened. If your child comes home and says he or she was bullied, ask your child questions. What happened before that? Was there an exchange of words? Were you fighting? Are you upset with her?
Try to get the whole story and make sure you have an understanding of the incident. And listening is also important — ask the questions and then listen.
Kristine Sorensen: Should you call the family of the child you think bullied your child?
Molly O-Malley-Argueta: It’s tricky. The parent would have to make that decision based on the individual case. As a parent myself, I would appreciate the parent calling me if my son or my daughter was doing something to another child, but not all parents feel that way. I think, as a parent, you need to make that call and decide if that’s the right decision. The school is definitely equipped to handle those incidents, so I think, when in doubt, always notify the school and the teacher.
For additional help with bullying: Check out Stop Bullying, a government site with dozens of resources.