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Back to School: Dealing With Meanness and Bullying

Kids can be bullies. Share these strategies to help your child deal with mean kids.

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It's sad, but true. Kids can be mean. I'm Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore. Let's talk about helping your child deal with meanness and bullying. Children can be impulsive and their ability to empathize isn't fully developed. So they may say things like, "You can't sit here." "I'm not your friend." Or push or grab when they feel frustrated. Bullying is different. It involves deliberate, severe or repeated acts that hurt another child. And, the bully is older, stronger, or more socially powerful than the other child. This power difference means that true bullying requires adult intervention. Talk to the teacher about what can be done to keep your child safe. Here are a few tips to help your child cope with more typical meanness. Avoid overreacting. Children who are picked on often have big emotional reactions. They cry, yell or hit, making them more of a target. Often, the best response to meanness is to shrug and walk away. Help your child practice crossing her arms and giving herself a little hug to prevent lashing out. Practice assertive responses. Having a response ready can help your child feel more confident. If your child is being teased, he could say, "So what?" If someone takes his toy, he could say in a strong, but calm voice, "I was using that." Cultivate friendships. Children who have 1 or 2 good friends are less likely to be bullied. Help your child figure out who to befriend in her class and invite them to play outside of school. You can't protect your child from ever experiencing meanness, but you can help her feel better equipped to handle it.