How to talk to your child about bullying
What can I do if my child is being bullied?
If your child is being bullied, you can help them to learn to avoid responding in ways that reward bullying behavior. Here are some ideas:
- Teach your child ways to be assertive, not aggressive, in response to the bullying behavior. Fighting back only makes bullying worse. Teach children to use their words to respond, such as “That’s bullying and I want you to stop!”
- Assure your child that he/she is not to blame.
- Tell them to report all bullying to an adult at school or to a parent. Teach them the difference between telling to get help, versus tattling just to get someone in trouble.
- Help them to role-play friendship-developing skills that will help them avoid bullying (making conversation with other children, joining a group, being respectful to other children, or being assertive).
- Talk to your child’s teacher or school principal if the bullying continues.
What can I do if my child is bullying others?
It’s sometimes hard to recognize when our own children are bullying others. Children who bully may tend to exhibit other behaviors such as: frequent name-calling, regular bragging, a need to get his or her own way, a defiant attitude, or a lack of empathy for others. There are ways that we can promote respectful behavior at home:
- Spend time talking to your child and helping them to brainstorm ways to be cooperative and respectful in their problem solving skills.
- Be consistent about discipline. Hold your child responsible for hurtful or negative behaviors. Avoid using put-downs or physical punishment, because children may learn this behavior as a way to resolve problems with other children.
- Eliminate toys, games, and TV show that glamorize or reward aggressive behavior. Once again, children learn how to bully by watching interactions around them.
- Praise your child for non-aggressive and respectful interactions.
- Teach your child to stay calm when they are feeling frustrated or angry, by counting to ten or walking away from a situation.
- Make sure your child knows what other kids expect – observe them playing with others and if you think there are unspoken rules that your child doesn’t understand, discuss them privately with your child.
- Help your child to see other’s points of views and explore how other children are feeling in certain situations. Sometimes, children who bully haven’t learned how to read these cues or empathize with others.
- Talk to your child’s school counselor or principal for other strategies they may be able to help with to address this behavior.
How to talk to your child about Teen Dating Abuse
Knowing your child is in an unhealthy relationship can be very frustrating and you may feel scared for your child’s safety.
What Can I Do?*
- Tell your child you’re concerned for their safety. Point out that what’s happening isn’t “normal.” Everyone deserves a safe and healthy relationship. Offer to connect your son or daughter with a professional, like a counselor or attorney, who they can talk to confidentially.
- Be supportive and understanding. Stress that you’re on their side. Provide information and non-judgmental support. Let your son or daughter know that it’s not their fault and no one “deserves” to be abused. Make it clear that you don’t blame them and you respect their choices.
- Believe them and take them seriously. Your child may be reluctant to share their experiences in fear of no one believing what they say. As you validate their feelings and show your support, they can become more comfortable and trust you with more information. Be careful not to minimize your child’s situation due to age, inexperience or the length of their relationship.
- Help develop a safety plan. One of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship is when the victim decides to leave. Be especially supportive during this time and try to connect your child to support groups or professionals that can help keep them safe.
- Remember that ultimately your child must be the one who decides to leave the relationship. There are many complex reasons why victims stay in unhealthy relationships. Your support can make a critical difference in helping your son or daughter find their own way to end their unhealthy relationship.