As children grow older, bullying behavior may be complicated by other factors. Sexual harassment, bias or hate-motivated bullying, and the aggressive and humiliating hazing done as part of tradition or initiation into a club, sports team, or other group may come into play. Parents, whether or not they are aware of these forms of bullying, are able to observe the ways in which their children manage decisions, rules, responsibility, authority, friends, popularity, and personal and social power. Although teens push for independence, parents should remain active and involved in their lives. As well as being there, parents must remain proactive and reinforce respectful behavior. During a child’s life, parents must remain a strong force by anchoring the values that guide their children’s actions and decisions. Parents may not know it, but they are still powerful teachers. They should keep in mind the following suggestions in maintaining guidance of their teens:
- Bullying is disrespectful and can be dangerous even if perpetuated in the spirit of team building or as the price to pay for joining a group. This behavior, or hazing, is illegal and is humiliating at the least and life threatening at the worst.
- Bullying of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment and is also illegal.
- Bullying on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, or sexual orientation is a form of bias or hate and cannot be dismissed as teasing. The difference between hate-motivated behavior and crime is negligible, and hate crime is punishable by law.
- Bullying behavior that continues into adulthood escalates to violent behavior toward strangers, friends, and even family.
- A lifetime of consequences may follow both the target and the bully.
Parents of teens should remain vigilant and understand school policies regarding bullying and the consequences of bullying. Parents must keep communication flowing between them and their children, teachers, and staff. If they become aware of bullying problems at school, parents must report it to the school immediately and ask for and accept help from the school whether their child is the bully, the target, or a witness.
Parents must continue to be a positive role model in any setting and refrain from using foul language or “put-downs.” Maintaining friendships with others based on trust and respect, acknowledging and accepting diversity, and resolving disputes peacefully are positive ways to model appropriate social behavior.