It’s a hard truth that parents know well, that name-calling, cruel insults, cyberbullying and physical bullying happen every day to kids across the country. When your child is being bullied, it’s hard to concentrate on anything else — all you want to do is make it stop immediately. You might even want to interrogate the other child’s parents – don’t do that just yet – and instead, take a moment to connect with your child, hear their side of the story and then calmly work through any next action steps before jumping to conclusions.
If your child is being picked on or his feelings hurt by others, set into the situation with a patient heart and willingness to just listen. We know these can be tough conversations but with a little guidance, we hope you can bridge the space with your child to discuss the hard stuff because bullying is a problem that needs to be talked about and solved as a family.
Here are steps you can take to get the conversation going:
1. Listen to What Your Child Has to Say
As a parent, being a good, active listener is an important piece of your role when your child is being bullied. One of the best questions you can ask your child is: “What can I do to be helpful?”
When your child tells you what’s going on at school, as much as it hurts to listen, be open and able to hear what she has to say. Be supportive but neutral when she’s talking. Don’t interrupt. When you react excessively to what your child is saying, she might stop talking because she’s afraid she’s going to upset you.
The other side of listening is not blaming your child. Don’t put the responsibility for the bullying on her or try to find a reason for it; there is no good reason or excuse for what’s happening. If your child is being bullied, she is the victim, so trying to find a reason for why she’s “bringing it on herself” really isn’t helpful.
2. If You Were Bullied as a Child, Try Not to Personalize What Is Happening
If you were bullied when you were younger, the same situation with your child will most likely bring up painful memories. It’s okay to connect with your child about how it feels to be bullied, but don’t take the problem on as if it’s yours alone.
3. Don’t Retaliate Against the Bully or His Family
As tempting as it might be to take matters into your own hands and retaliate against the bully or his family, don’t do it. This is where you have to set some examples for your child on how to problem solve.
It’s very difficult to hear that your child is being threatened. Of course, you want to immediately stop the hurt. But remember, retaliating won’t help your child solve the problem or feel better about herself. Instead, take a deep breath and think about what you can do to help your child handle what she’s facing.
4. Coach Your Child on How to React
Bullies tend to pick on people who they can get a reaction from. They choose kids who get upset and who take the teasing to heart. They also look for kids who won’t stand up for themselves, or who they can overpower. It’s important to teach your child how to react in a healthy way.
5. Find a Teacher or Administrator at Your Child’s School Who You Know Will Help
Connect with a school official, such as a guidance counselor, and let your child know that she has a friend of authority during their school time. Also, make sure your child keeps talking—whether it’s with you, a guidance counselor or a trusted teacher, it’s important that she keeps communicating about what’s going on.
6. Take Your Child’s Side
When your child is bullied, it’s important to constantly reaffirm that there are things she can do to handle the situation and confirm that you are there to help her. Tell her that you love her, care about her and make sure she knows that you are always going to support her. Remind her that there is no excuse for what’s happening. Make sure to let your child know that you’re on her side. She needs to understand that you don’t blame her and that you will support her.
7. Get Support
Be sure to talk to your spouse or to supportive family or friends. As a parent, know that it is okay to cry and get angry; this type of situation can really bring out strong emotions from parents. Parents just need to remember to talk to each other about bullying. Reach other to other adults (your peers), a family member, friend, or someone at the school or anyone who can help you help your child.
8. Teach Your Child to Name What’s Happening
For younger kids, it’s important to be able to name what’s happening as “bullying.” For a child who’s feeling picked on, it’s empowering to be able to really name it. Here are some authors that do a great job explaining the term and bullying situations that children can relate to:
Llama Llama and the Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney
The Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson, Ph.D.
Confessions of a Former Bully by Trudy Ludwig
9. Find Something Your Child Is Really Good at Doing
Help your child feel good about herself by finding something she can do well. Choose some positive activities she’s good at and reinforce it verbally. Help your child get involved in activities she wants to do to increase her self-esteem. Find a positive experience for your child to help him feel good about herself.
Overcoming a bullying episode takes support, and it takes everyone working together as a family to make it happen.
Orthodontic Associates is proud to be a supporter of Stomp out Bullying: https://www.stompoutbullying.org/national-bullying-prevention-awareness-month and we encourage all family members to continue the conversation and educate themselves bullying prevention.
Orthodontic Associates does not condone or approve of bullying. If your child is being bullied, reach out to someone on our staff, and allow us to be one of the trusted adults in your child’s life.