Submitted by Gyro Psychology Services
Parents can help kids and teens learn how to deal with bullying if it happens. For some parents, it may be tempting to tell a kid to fight back. After all, you’re angry that your child is suffering and maybe you were told to “stand up for yourself” when you were young. Or you may worry that your child will continue to suffer at the hands of the bully, and think that fighting back is the only way to put a bully in his or her place.
However, it’s important to advise kids not to respond to bullying by fighting or bullying back. It can quickly escalate into violence, trouble, and someone getting injured. Instead, it’s best to walk away from the situation, hang out with others, and tell an adult.
Here are some other strategies to discuss with kids that can help to improve the situation and help them feel better.
Advice for Kids and Teens:
- Avoid the bully and use the buddy system. Use a different bathroom if a bully is nearby and don’t go to your locker when there is nobody around. Make sure you have someone with you so that you’re not alone with the bully. Buddy up with a friend on the bus, in the hallways, or at recess — wherever the bully is. Offer to do the same for a friend.
- Hold the anger. It’s natural to get upset by the bully, but that’s what bullies thrive on. It makes them feel more powerful. Practice not crying or looking red or upset. It takes a lot of practice, but it’s a useful skill for keeping off of a bully’s radar. Sometimes kids find it useful to practice “cool down” strategies such as counting to 10, writing down their angry words, taking deep breaths, or walking away. Sometimes the best thing to do is to teach kids to wear a “poker face” until they are clear of any danger (smiling or laughing may provoke the bully).
- Act brave, walk away, and ignore the bully. Firmly and clearly tell the bully to stop, then walk away. Practice ways to ignore the hurtful remarks, like acting uninterested or texting someone on your cell phone. By ignoring the bully, you’re showing that you don’t care. Eventually, the bully will probably get bored with trying to bother you.
- Tell an adult. Teachers, principals, parents, and even lunchroom personnel at school can and should help stop bullying by staying watchful and intervening when necessary.
- Talk about it. Talk to someone you trust, such as a guidance counselor, teacher, sibling, or friend. They may offer some helpful suggestions, and even if they can’t fix the situation, it may help you feel a little less alone.
Dealing with bullying can erode a child’s confidence. To help restore it, encourage your kids to spend time with friends who have a positive influence. Participation in clubs, sports, or other enjoyable activities builds strength and friendships. If school activities are out of the question because of bullies, consider community clubs and teams.
Provide a listening ear about difficult situations, but encourage your kids to also tell you about the good parts of their day, and listen equally attentively. Make sure they know you believe in them and that you’ll do what you can to address any bullying that occurs.
Advice for Parents:
- Talk with and Listen to Your Children Everyday. Ask questions about their school day, including experiences on the way to and from school, lunch, and recess. Ask about their peers. Children who feel comfortable talking to their parents about these matters before they are involved in bullying are more likely to get them involved after.
- Spend time at School and Recess. Schools can lack the resources to provide all students individualized attention during “free” time like recess. Volunteer to coordinate games and activities that encourage children to interact with peers aside from their best friends.
- Be a Good Example. When you get angry at other drivers, servers, or other people in the community, model effective communication techniques. As Education.com puts it, “Any time you speak to another person in a mean or abusive way, you’re teaching your child that bullying is okay.”
- Create Healthy Anti-Bullying Habits. Starting as young as possible, coach your children on both what NOT to do (push, tease, and be mean to others) as well as what TO do (be kind, empathize, and take turns). Also coach your child on what to do if someone is mean to him or to another (get an adult, tell the bully to stop, walk away, and ignore the bully).
- Make Sure Your Child Understands Bullying. Clearly explain what bullying is, and that it is not normal or tolerable for them to bully other kids, to be bullied, or to stand by and watch other kids get bullied.
Need Emotional Support?
If you think your child would benefit from some additional support, consider calling us to set up an appointment with one of our psychologists at Gyro Psychology Services, Inc. (360.236.0206). We serve children and adolescents ages 2-20 with a variety of emotional, mental, and behavioral health needs.
We are located at 5191 Corporate Center Ct SE, Lacey, Washington, 98503. Or, check out our website for more information on bullying prevention and interventions, and other tough issues that kids/teens face.