Whether your child is starting kindergarten or is a senior in high school, it’s always the right time to have conversations about bullying. So what is the definition of bullying, and how should you approach it?
When talking with your child, it’s important to draw clear distinctions between friendly teasing—often characterized by joking and smiling—and persistent aggressive behavior that hurts feelings. Kids who can recognize types of bullying are better prepared to do the right thing to keep themselves, their friends, and their peers safe.
Keep reading to learn how bullying affects your child and what you can do to help him or her move forward.
What Is Bullying?
Bullying is aggressive behavior that is hurtful, threatening, or persistent. It can occur in a friendship or relationship and is characterized by an imbalance of power.
Frequently, children don’t understand or feel comfortable sharing a bad experience. Parents may not always see bullying warning signs. This means it’s important to maintain an honest, open dialogue with children so they are better able to identify, discuss, and overcome the most common forms of bullying:
- Direct bullying—hitting, kicking, intimidation
- Indirect bullying—manipulation, mean jokes, exclusion
- Cyberbullying—teasing or threats via posts, texts, or email
What Can Parents Do to Help Deal with the Effects of Bullying?
If your child comes to you with concerns about bullying, it’s important to offer comfort and support. Talk with him or her, listen carefully, and evaluate the scenario your child is going through.
When your child feels the effects of bullying, offer constructive options for dealing with the bully—without resorting to a physical attack. Give your child tips for discouraging a bully’s behavior, such as acting brave, using the buddy system, or making a joke. Share your own experiences, and remind your child it’s important to report bullying to adults.
If your child is a bully bystander, stress the key role he or she can play in helping a victim. Most bullying ends immediately when a peer, friend, or adult intervenes. Discuss ways your child can make the situation better, including taking the victim away from the area, providing emotional support, and vocally disapproving when others join in.
The road to adulthood is bumpy, and there may even be times you suspect your child of bullying others. If this is the case, discuss the situation with your child. Ask him or her to consider how the victim feels, and brainstorm ways he or she can choose to be an upstander instead of a bully. If your child feels like being mean, discuss setting kindness goals, taking a walk, or counting to ten.
Dealing with the Effects of Bullying as a Family
Finally, dealing with bullies can be intimidating for even the most well-prepared kids. That’s why bullying role-play and other bullying-prevention activities can give your child the confidence to stay safe and help others.
First, discuss the importance of being kind online and at home. Then quiz your child and explore how his or her answers can help others feel better. Possible quiz questions include:
- How do you know how someone is feeling?
- How do you know when someone feels excluded from a group?
- How can you make someone feel better?
Follow up with a role-playing activity allowing you and your child to take turns playing the victim and bullying bystander. How does your child approach each situation? After role-playing, have your child journal his or her thoughts and feelings about the activity.
As children progress from childhood to adolescence, bullying can take various forms. By helping children practice empathy and learn respect for others, you can better prepare them for successfully navigating conflict now and as adults.
Is your child a superstar when it comes to dealing with bullies? Maybe he or she wants to start an antibullying policy or a Random Acts of Kindness Club with friends?