How To Talk To Your Kids About Bullying

With school back in session, it’s time to have a talk with your children about bullying. It’s a very important conversation each year not only to refresh their memory but also because bullying can come out of nowhere and start-up for what appears to be no reason at all. Just because your child wasn’t bullied last year doesn’t mean that they won’t be bullied this year. Or that their friends won’t become bullies themselves.

Getting Started

I would recommend having the conversation over food. It gives your kids something to take their mind off things and makes it feel less like they are in trouble for something they’ve not done. This could either be done as a family conversation over dinner or just a small snack in the kitchen.  One of the most surprising things I learned about bullying recently is that kids these days don’t understand the difference between being mean, bullying, and committing a crime. Which is really where the conversation should begin.


How to Identify Bullying

As I said above kids seem to have things a little mixed up. There is this belief that if someone isn’t being physically violent that they aren’t a bully, they’re just mean. But there is an important difference between being mean and being a bully.  Being mean is having a bad attitude or just not liking someone. It manifests as being snappy or closing a door before someone can come inside and holding it closed.  Bullying is being mean taken to another level. It’s all the things that come with being mean but it is concentrated on one person for an extended period of time. Bullying can escalate to violence, and that is when bullying is taken to the extreme.  It’s important to remind your child that bullying begins when being mean gets taken to the next level, not when the violence begins.



Friends Don’t Let Friends Bully

It’s also important to remind your kids that if their friends turn into bullies it is not ok to stand by and watch it happen. By doing so they are giving their friend more power to be a bully.


What To Do If You See Bullying

Empowering your kids with the knowledge of what to do if they encounter bullying is perhaps the most important part of the whole conversation.  Make sure they understand that bullying happens because the bully wants a reaction. If you simply walk away from the situation you are robbing them of that reaction and the power that comes with it. This also includes online. Block the bully, report them, and also tell an adult. If you continue to do this then the bully will either give up or try to escalate. If they try to escalate it and make it violent then it is time to involve the authorities.

It’s important that your kids know they need to report bullying when they see it or experience it. But this is likely the most difficult step. This all comes down to how the adults respond to it. Many schools fail their students by just shrugging it off and saying they can’t do anything until someone gets physically hurt. Kids also don’t want to be known as a narc, which makes things even harder. The best you can do then is keep an open dialog with your child and hope that they will come to you.



Show Them What Happens if They Do Nothing

Finally, I think it’s important that your children know how bad bullying can get. Try to find examples from the news of kids their age, or younger that have committed suicide because they were bullied. These real-life examples might feel a bit extreme, but it’s important that kids understand these things. It might just be the thing that stops them from becoming a bully themselves.

Have you dealt with bullying with your kids?  I have and it is one of the hardest things in the world to hear about.  I had to have a conversation with Chance about how he can deal with bullying if it happens to him, but also how to identify it with others.


LaToyia, The Motivated Mom

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