I remember walking into my fifth grade class wearing a really comfortable pair of pink pants that I was super proud of when I heard someone say very condescendingly “Nice pants.” It sucked the wind right out of my sails — so much so I can still feel the hurt of those words decades later.
But no one really taught me about bullying.
No one told me how hurtful words could be.
No one ever mentioned that bullying can be really subtle.
So for months and years I let words like this spew from the mouths of my peers without saying a word to anyone else. And I let it eat away at my confidence, internalizing it as something wrong with myself instead of seeing it for what it was — lies and words of intimidation that had nothing to do with how worthy I was.
Tips to Help Teach Children About Being Bullied
Bullying is something that most parents dread to hear about from their children. It can be a delicate situation to handle, especially if you’ve been there before… because you feel it too. And it’s so easy to hurt for them or want to simply swoop in and solve the problem.
1. Remind your kids that bullying can happen anywhere, especially online.
Children need to know not only that other kids can act really horrible when chatting online, but that the feeling that they get of being invincible behind a keyboard is an illusion. From both sides of the coin, words hurt, especially written words that can’t be erased. And having a digital footprint of those words means that it can never be taken back.
2. Explain to your child about the different types of bullying.
Some types of bullying are really hard to notice, like forms of verbal abuse. This is usually because some bullying can be delivered with cruel humor, that even some adults find hard to recognize as bullying behavior. In educating your child about what to recognize as bullying, it helps them start to see subtle ways that humor and words can be used to leave someone out, belittle a person, or make someone feel inferior in a situation.
3. Let your child know what steps they should take if they’ve been bullied.
Teaching your child about how to recognize types of bullying, as well as what to do about it, go hand in hand. In some minor cases, it can be initially ignored, but with repeated incidents, the issue has to be reported to the right person.
It’s important to let your child know that if they aren’t comfortable reporting the bully to their teacher or school, that they can always come to you, so you can report it. The important thing about this is to not hold off reporting a bully. The sooner that the problem is reported, the sooner that the issue can be investigated, and ultimately, resolved.
Related: Bully Prevention Resources
4. Teach your child that any negative retaliation to a bully is not a way out.
Part of identifying bullying is also knowing how to deal with it. And retaliating very rarely solves the problem. In fact it typically makes it worse.
Your child may feel alone and trapped in a corner, when it comes to being bullied, but they should never fight back or use cruel words. This can escalate the situation where your child can be hurt.
5. Involve teachers and coaches in teaching your child and their peers about bullying.
Teaching children about bullying should be a community effort. This allows everyone to be on the same page, especially on what bullying is, how to recognize it, and what are the consequences. If you are teaching your child about bullying, you may want to coordinate with teachers and coaches to help teach your child’s peers.
6. Finally, always support your child if they have been a victim of bullying.
Your child needs to feel safe, and that they aren’t alone.
Sometimes it’s easy to pass off or not acknowledge your child if they’ve reported that some other person had bullied them. Take reports of bullying seriously, and investigate it, but also comfort your child and let them know that you’ll help them and you’ll be their cheerleader through it all.
Every should feel safe no matter where they are.
What tips do you have that could help other parents teach their children about bullying?
Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!