Five ways to address bullying with your kids
One of the most challenging parts of childhood – and parenthood, for that matter – is dealing with bullying. The reality is that kids of all ages will eventually face some level of intimidation, whether it’s themselves directly, or through one of their friends. In honor of National Youth Violence Prevention Week, an initiative aimed at educating students, teachers, parents and the public on effective ways to prevent or reduce youth violence, we’re sharing five ways to help address bullying with your children – and maybe even prevent it.
Respect is key.
Teaching your kids to respect themselves and others is paramount – and it starts early. A strong sense of self-respect will help your child better deal with bullying, and combined with a basic respect for others, can even help prevent bullying in the first place.
One way to help build self-confidence is to play the “I am someone who…” game. Encourage your children to showcase their personal traits by prompting phrases like “I am someone who… likes animals” or “I am someone who… runs really fast.” This exercise helps your children value their unique traits and have a positive attitude about what makes them different.
Prepare for incidents.
Help your child be ready for bullying by developing a list of responses they can use to deescalate a bullying situation. Focus on simple and direct phrases that aren’t antagonistic: "Leave me alone." "Back off." "That wasn't nice." "Don't do that."
Practice “what if” scenarios and use role-playing to build confidence in your child for these challenging situations.
Encourage upstanding behavior.
In addition to standing up for themselves, encourage your children to stand up for others. By teaching your child to be an “upstander” (instead of a bystander), they can take positive action if they see another student being bullied.
Many bullies are looking for an audience that gives approval for their behavior. When a fellow student stands up for a child that is being bullied, it can be more powerful than having an adult step in. Ask your child what it feels like to see another child being bullied and let them know how powerful they can be by taking action.
Focus on prevention.
Talk to your child’s school about implementing an anti-bullying pledge and teaching children how to intervene in a positive manner.
Work with teachers and other parents to develop a toolkit of ideas that kids can use in tough situations. Stopping bullying before it happens can keep bad situations from escalating.
Encourage other parents to talk to their kids about where bullying happens at their school. Children need to know that caring adults are aware, concerned and ready to back them up in tough situations.
Stop it early.
Unsurprisingly, many children are reluctant to report bullying. Support your child by going together to talk with school administrators if necessary. Make sure you know the school’s policy on bullying and keep records of what your child reports to you and what actions the school takes to remedy the situation.
If there isn’t any progress, then consider getting outside help from a family therapist or other community resources.
In the end, the most important thing a parent can do is simply be there for your child. Show your support and encourage an open flow of communication at all times, whether it’s through conversations with you, or a trusted teacher or counselor.