Talking to your child about bullying

By: Jan 27, 2012

Help empower your child when it comes to dealing with a bully.

As a parent, you know that dreaded feeling. Your child comes home from school and with myriad emotions; he or she explains how difficult their day was because of the mean kid. A range of emotions overtakes you. You are angry, you are sad, and you want a resolution. Each of your reactions is logical and normal but what happens next is more important. Talking to your child about bullying can have a life altering affect for them because you can empower your child. 

Listen to Your Child
One of the most significant things you do as a parent is to listen to your child. It seems like such a simple task but it is often the most difficult. It takes a lot of courage for a child to go to an adult about a difficult situation at school, even if that adult is you. Very often you will only have one chance because if your child does not feel like you heard them, they may not revisit the subject, which means essentially that you blew it. So in spite of your anger and urge to take over and solve the problem before you know what happened won’t help. Button the mouth and listen. When your child comes home talking about things ‘the mean kid’ is doing, sit down with them. Make sure they know they have your undivided attention. Ask questions, but ensure you are letting them tell their own story. If your child trusts you care about what they are saying, they are more likely to listen to your input and try your suggestions.

Help your Child Understand Bullying
Bullying is the buzzword of the moment. Children learn about it in schools, they watch shows about it on television. However, just because they hear the word very often does not mean they have a true understanding of what it is and how to recognize it. It is vitally important you help your child know the difference between a mean classmate and a bully. At the most basic level, bullying is a negative action that occurs repeatedly over time. A classmate may call your child a name, they may hurt your child’s feelings, but until that action is repeated over and over again, it is not considered bullying. Once you define bullying for your child, have them give you examples so you can verify they understand the definition.

Give Your Child Success Strategies
It is possible to help your child deflect bullying. As you discuss bullying with them, introduce ways they can often successfully turn bullying around. One of the easiest ways is to teach your child to use a firm voice as they ask the bully to stop. Not only is your child able to take control of their own situation, their loud voice may draw the attention of adults in the area that can intervene as well. Ensure you child is aware of the difference between yelling and speaking in a firm voice though. Additionally, bullies can sometimes be rerouted by friendly gestures. Encourage your child to invite the bully into various games or conversations. Bullying, particularly at the younger level, often begins through a desire to interact with other students. Your child might be the one to teach them how to connect positively.

Know when to Get Outside Help
Bullying will not always stop overnight. Support your child as they work through the process and keep the lines of communication open. If you notice that the bullying is persisting or if you notice signs that your child’s demeanor is changing, their eating habits alter or their grades begin to suffer, do not be afraid to get help. Contact your child’s teacher, the school counselor or assistant principal. These individuals are trained to resolve bullying situations and you will feel safer knowing they are aware of the situation.