5 Ways to Empower Children Against Bullying
Bullying. It’s a word that makes parents shy away from whether your child is on the giving or receiving end or if the bullying is face to face or occurring in cyberspace. Despite the prevalence of cyberbullying, bullying has been around forever and causes real feelings to be hurt. It’s not something to be taken lightly.
If you’re wary about talking to your kids about bullying, kids of all ages can be empowered to speak up for themselves and their friends. Here’s what you need to know in order to start the conversations in your home and encourage your kids to keep talking about what they’re experiencing regardless of their age to encourage a sense of empowerment.
1. Know what bullying is. If you are ashamed to not be current on all the information, StopBullying.gov has information on what bullying is, recognizing the signs, and how to get help. The National Bullying Prevention Center defines bullying, harassment, and provides 3 steps to take if your child is being targeted through Bullying Info and Facts.
2. Encourage your kids to talk about bullying. Many parents don’t talk about it and that makes kids not want to discuss it. How do you get the ball rolling if you haven’t already? Ask open ended questions to create conversation. Let your children know it is something that you are concerned about and they need to tell an adult. Your kids may not tell you directly but perhaps they will tell another family member, sibling, or peer.
When our son was in preschool and was being called names by his peers, he didn’t come to me or my husband. He confided in his older sister before bed one evening. Being worried, she told me. I was proud that she recognized the importance of the situation and was concerned about her brother’s hurt feelings to tell us so we could have a conversation with the teacher.
3. Listen. Being able to recognize behaviors as bullying is important but so is listening and following your child’s lead. Earlier this year our second grade daughter told me that some kindergarten boys were chasing her and calling her names. We could have easily dismissed this as them having a crush, younger kids being silly, etc. but what seemed to be fun play at recess quickly turned into harassment. Dinner time conversations centered around talk of the boys behavior but she assured us she could handle this on her own. She was annoyed but didn’t want to take any more action than telling the teachers on recess duty.
We listened and took cues from her. She wanted us to have a hands off approach and wanted to handle it on her own. This was difficult especially since she was upset buta t age 8, we made the conscious decision to let her feel empowered. Eventually it progressed to the point where she wasn’t enjoying recess at all that was brought to our attention by a fellow parent who called to tell us that her daughter noticed ours was upset. That was when we knew it was time for us to intervene.
Together we brainstormed about next steps. She decided it was time to talk to the school administration. While the matter was taken seriously and handled swiftly, we let her be the guide, practicing life skills like resiliency while listening and intervening when necessary.
4. Reinforce the importance of being a friend. Getting a phone call about my daughter’s recess harassment from a fellow parent demonstrated how much our community cares and the importance of friends.
Being a good friend is always important but even more so when a child is being bullied. Encourage your child to help a friend who is being bullied by taking a stand to discourage a culture of bullying by telling bullies their behavior is not ok.
If your child needs a tangible reminder, KidsAgainstBullying.org has a pledge accessible by clicking on the treasure chest on their site. They also have a downloadable Kids Against Bullying Certificate when they agree to speak up when seeing others being bullied, reach out to others who are being bullied, and to be a friend whenever they see bullying.
5. Acknowledge that emotional scars that come from bullying are as harmful as the physical ones. While being punched or kicked leaves bruises and scars that can be seen on the outside, the internal hurt from bullying is also real.
Later this week I’ll be sharing age appropriate bullying and cyberbullying resources for parents of preschoolers, elementary, tweens, and teens.
Child sits on stairs holding his head in his hands via Shutterstock