The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term ‘school’ “as an organization that instructs children”, but for many students regardless of age or grade, ‘school’ is a very scary place where they’re bullied and they dread attending. According to recent reports, about 71 percent of students report bullying as on-going. Over 50 percent of students have witnessed bullying take place on school campus; and 15 percent of all students who don’t show up for school accredit it to being bullied or the fear of it potentially taking place. One out of 10 students either drops out of school or changes schools due to bullying, and a whopping 282,000 high school students are attacked by a bully at school every month throughout the nation. Military students are also very susceptible to being bullied due to frequent moves and being the ‘new kid on campus’. USO tour veteran and children’s motivational speaker Trevor Romain who is also known as the “child whisperer” travels to schools nationwide and those on military installations speaking and teaching children how to handle life’s ups and downs and how to cope with bullies. Trevor was kind enough to join me recently to discuss simple tips for parents who suspect their child is being bullied or whose child is the bully; and tips for kids who’ve witnessed a friend or fellow student bullied stand up to bullies.
Candace Rose: How does bullying typically begin?
Trevor Romain: “Right now I’m on a USO world tour. I wrote a book called “Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain”, and one of the things I discuss in the book is how does someone start bullying? Why does bullying happen? Obviously bullying has been going on since the beginning of time, but what’s happening lately is that kids are using new media to be able to bully. I think a lot of children who are bullies are frustrated, angry or hurting in some way and they use bullying to try and regulate and manage their feelings. So that’s basically why it starts, because something’s usually going on. Look, there are some kids who normally are just mean kids, but most of the time something’s going on and that’s where we have to try and solve the problem is by finding out why these things are going on for these particular kids.”
Candace Rose: What are some signs parents should look for if they suspect their child is being bullied?
Trevor Romain: “Some of the telltale signs are really obvious, but we are looking so hard for something that we don’t even notice them. Here are a few things:
- Sleep habits. When those things change in a child, oftentimes that means that something is going on.
- Eating habits as well.
- The different kinds of friends changing, and switching of friends very often.
Those are very classic signs. Also, I urge parents to not only hear, but to listen because often times our gut feeling that ‘there’s something going on; oh it’s probably nothing or it’s probably normal’. Listen to that because most of the time they can intuitively know that something is happening.”
Candace Rose: What can parents do if they’re child is the bully?
Trevor Romain: “Very good question. So often, bullies are hurting, bullies are going through a tough time themselves. I think for parents to be able to not use it as a chance to yell at them or admonish them for their behavior, but to try and have them know that they understand and care about why they’re feeling that way. If a parent can share an experience they’ve had with a child; in other words, if they can say ‘when I was a kid I was so angry one time, and I was so frustrated and I didn’t know what to do’, so their child will know they felt what they are feeling right now. That just really helps to validate their feelings, and then be able to sit down and say ‘wow, how can we solve this problem’? ‘Why do you think you feel like this?’ As opposed to making them feel like they’re in trouble for their behavior.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any suggestions for kids who know a friend or a fellow classmate is being bullied, but are afraid to speak up?
Trevor Romain: “That’s a very good question, because so often kids are petrified of reporting what’s been going on because either they’ll get in trouble or the bullies going to come after them. I suggest even writing a note to the teacher, or actually doing it where nobody can see after school or at another time going up and saying ‘I just want to tell you this is going on’. I think you have to encourage them that they won’t be in trouble, but it’s actually a really brave and important thing to do.”
Candace Rose: We see that you also help military kids with the USO. Can you tell us about that?
Trevor Romain: “I’m so proud to be working with the USO and traveling around the world just helping military kids deal with issues that they face on a daily basis which are pretty tough sometimes like having a parent deployed; having a parent coming back from being deployed; it’s moving every three years; going to a new school; a new country; a new base is really hard, so this tour is designed to be with them all the way. We give those kids tools to help manage the situation they are going through. And one of the things that I think is really important is to be able to have them know that people in the general public are with them all the way.”
Candace Rose: Why are military kids more susceptible to bullying?
Trevor Romain: “A couple of things. Number one- new schools; being in a new place can make you feel insecure. The other thing which a lot of people don’t realize is when kids do move like this. When parents are away and in danger, some of these kids are angry, frustrated and sad, and they don’t know how to self regulate the way they’re feeling, so they will act out. And sometimes they just really want to connect with someone and don’t know how, so they bully them. A lot of it is in retaliation to what’s happening to them, maybe at home there’s a frustration situation or a sad situation and they act out. Normally they’re doing it because something is going on.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share?
Trevor Romain: “Absolutely. If both children and adults want information, go to USO.org/Trevor-Romain. There’s a lot of really good information there.”