How to talk to kids about bullying

Bullying is a sore subject for the bully and the victim. The bully doesn’t want to be told he’s wrong and the victim doesn’t want to be seen as weak and powerless. Unfortunately, bullying is a reality, and telling your children the difference between right and wrong is crucial to them living a healthy social life at school and beyond. Talk to your kids about bullying. Here’s how.

Mom talking with teenage daughter |

Face the numbers

It’s easy to ignore the facts and assume bullying won’t happen to your child. The fact is, though, there’s a good chance bullying is something your child has dealt with at least once. In fact, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s Bullying Resource Center, as many as 50 percent of children have been bullied and about 10 percent deal with it on a regular basis.

Take the clinical route

There are many ways to tackle a psychological issue. One approach is to help your child get into the head of a bully and understand why that person bullies in the first place. The reasons a child might bully another may include parental trouble, lack of discipline, feeling powerless, peer influence and more. It’s a way to feel powerful and establish superiority.

Talk about your past with bullies

If you were bullied growing up, tell your children how it affected you in the long run. This also opens up a door, allowing your child to tell you about any instances of bullying he’s been a part of, no matter which side he was on.

Don’t be wishy-washy

Don’t take the “kids will be kids” stance. Let them know that bullies are wrong and they should be stopped. Saying that bullying is just a normal part of adolescence and socialization is incorrect. Children who are bullied will often wind up with feelings of inadequacy that could turn them into bullies themselves. At the same time, don’t paint bullies as being wholly evil characters. Don’t dehumanize them. Everyone has some good inside. Some people just have a harder time expressing it.

Encourage them to take action

Standing up to a bully is the only way to get him or her to stop. You’ve probably seen the YouTube videos of when a victim finally decides to fight back. Once the victim shows power, bullying is no longer a no-risk situation and often stops.

Explain to your child that standing up to a bully doesn’t call for physical action. It can be as simple as saying “no.”

Tell your child to inform administrators if he sees someone being bullied. Or, if an administrator isn’t around, encourage your child and all of his friends to stand up to the bully and tell him, “What you’re doing is wrong.” The bully won’t like it, and that’s exactly the point. He or she will learn his behavior is wrong and won’t be reinforced by peers.

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