Talking To Your Child About Bullying

Knowing that your child is experiencing the emotional and sometimes physical pain of bullying or cyberbullying is heartbreaking for parents. Oftentimes parents are unsure where to begin. Other times parents struggle with knowing if their child is the victim, bystander, or the perpetrator of these harmful behaviors.

Here are some tips that will help you start the conversation with your child.

  • Know the basics. What is bullying? Bullying is defined as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” (stopbullying.gov)

Bullying can be identified through three characteristics: intent, repetition, and power. When bullying the perpetrator intends to cause pain, either through their words, physical harm, or their behaviors and does so repeatedly.

Bullying is a pattern of behaviors rather than an isolated incident. Children who bully use power such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity as a means to control or harm others. These power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even when they involve the same children. (stopbullying.gov)

Bullying is also repetitive. Bullying behaviors happen more than one time or have the potential to happen more than one time.

  • Use opportunities in everyday conversations. Parents can use the many opportunities given to them throughout the day to talk to their children about how people behave in different social situations and how they get along with one another. If your child tells you about things that took place in school or you see things while out in public that involve conflict or bullying use these opportunities, if appropriate, to talk about the situation.
  • Talk to your child about how to respond to bullying safely. Help your child know what to do if bullying happens to them or they see it happening to somebody else. Safe ways to respond to bullying include:

Tell someone. If your child is being bullied they can tell you, a family member, grandparents, teacher, friend, or other trusted adult. If bullying is happening online or via text messaging have them keep the messages and show an adult.

Stay positive, be confident. Think about positive things such as what they like doing at school or away from school, things that they are good at, the people who like them and care about them.

Things to try if they feel safe to do so. If bullying is happening to your child in person or online these are things they can try, if they are feeling safe:

Tell the other person “I don’t like that.” Use a strong and confident voice, even if they don’t feel strong and confident.

Talk with the person who is bullying them. Have your child ask them if there is a problem that the two of them can sort out together. If your child is feeling afraid to do this alone, they can ask a friend to come with them.

Don’t try and get back at the person bullying them. This usually does not end the bullying and will end up getting your child into trouble as well.

If bullying is happening online or text messaging don’t respond and block the individual. Have your child not respond but keep the messages so they can give them to a trusted adult who can help them. Have your child block the individual so that the bullying is not allowed to continue.

  • Avoid using words such as “bully” or “victim”. While these words are often used in media and in research they are not helpful when finding a positive and lasting solution. When talking about bullying, focus more on the appropriate ways to act with others and positive ways to get along with others.
  • Keep communication open. Children are more likely to ask for advice and help with problems if they think their parents are interested in them and their concerns. Spend time each day asking about their day and show genuine interest in their feelings and experiences. Check in with your children often. Know who their friends are, ask about school, and understand their concerns. Ask them about situations they tell you about, but don’t jump in to solve their problems, instead ask them what they think they can do to solve the problem.

For more information on bullying including interventions and resources visit cyperbullying.org. You can also access Bonneville Academy’s policy on bullying by clicking here.

Bonneville Academy is a K-8 STEM school in Stansbury Park, Utah. Bonneville Academy will foster critical thinking and problem solving skills in a challenging, student-centered environment; by encouraging exploration in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Preparing students for success in our ever changing dynamic world.

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