How to Handle Bullying

If you’re a parent, it’s likely that you’ve witnessed bullying at some point throughout your child’s life. It might have been something innocent like name-calling, or something more serious like physical violence. Nearly 33% of children in the United States report being bullied at school.  While being the victim of bullying can be emotionally challenging and potentially traumatizing, it’s not uncommon for victims to become the bullies themselves. It’s important to help your child process their experience if they are bullied, and instill  positive values to prevent the tables from turning.

Here are some simple steps you can take whether your child is the bully or the victim of bullying.

Define “Bullying”

When you have young children it’s normal to see them act like, well, children. Teasing and name-calling may be harmless, but when it becomes hurtful it crosses the line into bullying. Bullying can range from verbal threats, mocking, and stealing, to physical violence like hitting and shoving. Because bullying can be a deeply shameful experience for kids, many choose to suffer in silence, or try to ‘figure it out’ on their own.

Look out for the Signs

Kids who are being bullied are unlikely to tell an authoritative figure. As a parent, it’s important to look for the warning signs. You might notice that your child is choosing not to engage with certain social situations like riding the busor eating lunch in the cafeteria. They might experience changes in appetite, sleep patterns, and increased anxiety. Children don’t want to keep these secrets, so it’s important to prompt them to start a conversation. Ask them if there is a particular reason why they are avoiding certain activities, or if there is something happening at school that is making them upset. More likely than not, they will open up.

Don’t Engage

If your child is being bullied, the best thing he or she can do is walk away. More often than not a bully is looking for a reaction, and fighting back will only exacerbate the situation.. If they are unable to physically walk away, instruct them to mentally and emotionally ‘walk away’. This means not fighting back with words, facial expressions or hand gestures, so they do not encourage the bully’s actions.

Find Support

It’s important that your children have a support system away from home. This might be a group of friends or school staff that will be available to support your child when they are bullied. There is strength in numbers, and bullies are less likely to attack kids who are with a friend or an authoritative figure. It’s also important for children to know that telling an adult is an important strategy to stop bullying. Telling a parent, school teacher, guidance counselor, or the school principal is a necessary step to insure that the bullying will stop.

Ask How They Feel

It’s not uncommon for victims to turn into bullies. If your child is the victim, it’s important to ask them how they feel when they are being bullied. Emphasize that being bullied doesn’t feel good, and making someone else feel that way won’t feel good either.

Many parents reading this might also be the parent of a child who engages in bullying. Bullying is not uncommon. Kids can bully because they themselves have been bullied, and sometimes they do it as a way to appear more important or popular. It’s important to understand why a bully behaves the way he or she does, and get to the root of the problem.

On both sides, it’s important to restore confidence and self-esteem. This ensures that kids can feel good about themselves and proud of their accomplishments intrinsically, and ultimately be less affected by external factors. Building confidence and self-esteem makes kids less likely to bully as a way to feel better about themselves, and it helps victims stay strong. Click here to read our recent post about instill confidence and self esteem in your kids.

Have you or your kids ever experienced bullying? Let us know how you handled it in the comments below!