The Hard Stuff Series: When Bullying Takes Over
The Hard Stuff Series: When Bullying Takes Over

Key Points

  • Remain calm. Easier said than done, but it’s important to take a breath before taking action.
  • Start the conversation with your child.
  • Actively listen!

I’m a parent. I understand what being a parent means, what it entails, all of its frustrations, but also, all of its joys. There’s a lot of hard stuff to parenting and sometimes, we just need some guidance on what to do, or simple tips and tricks to get us going for the night.

So for the next six weeks, I’m writing up a series on different topics around The Hard Stuff when it comes to parenting. These are the nitty-gritty, dirty details of parenting along with useful and practical advice to help you along the way. The topics are serious but real, challenging but worthwhile. My hope is that we make this a journey: ask questions, share your experience, and remember that we’re here for you!

The topic for today is BULLYING. Bullying comes in different forms – victim and doer. Both are equally as important and both need help.

Helpful tips when your child is being described as a bully

You get THE call. The call that makes every parent cringe. The call from school where your child is being described as a bully. So many questions erupt in your mind: How should I approach my child with the information? What do I say? What should I do? What should I not do?  What if my child denies it? Before we’ve even hung up the phone a million scenarios have run through our head while trying to manage our own emotions – whether it be disappointment or disbelief. Here are 4 tips I’ve personally used and ring true in a variety of unexpected situations.

  • Remain calm. 

    No one wants to deal with an angry adult. I get it – a child acting out or being picked on can be an easy trigger for many of us, but practice active listening so that you can fully understand the situation being described to you. Remember that having complete information trumps blowing off steam. Be a role model. Take a look at what the CDC defines as bullying, is what it is not.

  • Start the conversation with your child.

    Listen to their side of the story. Ask your child pointed questions about the incident as it was described to you. Is someone treating your child that way? Is your child feeling insecure about something? Just start digging.

  • Acknowledge the behavior. 

    But put a limit on it. It’s important to nip the behavior in the bud. Focus on the consequence through empathetic thought processes. What I mean is, ask questions to help your child understand how her behavior affects others. This is empathy. For example, ask, “Is what you did respectful? Did it hurt someone? Would you want someone to do that to you?” Empathy is a great tool to use especially in helping kids understand how their actions have consequences. If your attempts are not working with your child, contact us and we can direct you to one of our specialized behavioral services.

  • Ensure that the behavior being described is not a manifestation of a disability. 

    If it is, you will still need to handle it, but you may need to approach it through an IEP or other disability services. Bullying can be a manifestation of a mental health issue (i.e anxiety or depression). Need more help? Check out how we use evidence-based practices to help our kids socially interact with others.

Helpful tips when you are faced with your child being bullied

It hurts. You hurt, and worse yet, your child hurts. And you don’t know what to do. How is this possible, you ask? You wring your hands frantically wondering what to do. What is your first step? What do you say? Would a hug suffice? Is bullying normal? What if my child is distant and doesn’t want to talk about it? How did I not know?

Take a deep breath, my friend. In a 2011 study on bullying, only about 20 to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying. It’s silent to many of us parents. Here are some valuable tips to get you going:

  • Remain Calm.

    Do not accuse your child of having contributed in some way to the bullying. Do not place blame on either party. I know you want all the answers right now because you want to fix the problem right now. Remaining calm will allow you to think, role model for your child (he’ll see that you’re calm, too), and allow you to dissect the situation with a thoughtful and purposeful mind.

  • Love your child. 

    They are hurting and need your unconditional love and support. Your child needs you more than ever. Don’t place blame; be there for her.

  • Look for changes in your child’s behavior and comment on it.

    Start the conversation. Check out our blog on 5 strategies to get your kid talking to get started. Ask, “I noticed you aren’t playing with your friends,” or, “I noticed you’re not eating your favorite meal.”

  • Try to problem solve with your child what he/she can do if the bullying happens again.

    You’re a team. So problem solve like a team. Find ways to empower your child. For example, with your child, find out who is safe in the school? Who can your child go to if the bullying happens again? Empower your child with an action plan, one that she feels safe and in control.

  • Talk about self-esteem and the fantastic qualities your child has.

    It’s important to connect with our kids. It helps them with their self-esteem. For example, do activities that she loves to do and is good at. Spend time together. Ask her what she likes to do. Encourage positive behavior. And praise his progress if he confronts or stands up to the bully and say, “I’m proud of you!”

Remember, children are resilient and can overcome social challenges. They have the power to build and sustain healthy relationships. And they have the tools to problem solve social situations – they need our support and guidance sometimes to make that happen. Here are some other great resources to learn about bullying, how to identify it, prevent it, and how to handle it.

Bullying is one of the most talked about topics discussed at school, albeit one of the most difficult ones to diffuse. With so much information, parents have trouble figuring out what to do. I hope these tips give you a head start and help you build connections with your children. Whether your child is being described as the bully or your child is being bullied, stay calm and brave during this stormy time. There is a way forward.

If you need to reach out for more support to help your child overcome social situations, like bullying, contact us today – we can help!

 

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