As we reach adulthood, we develop a set of skills which, hopefully, includes the ability to speak up when we are being disrespected, and to protect ourselves when we feel threatened or unsafe. Children are still developing those abilities, and it’s important to understand when it’s time to allow them to protect themselves, and when it’s time for us to step in and advocate for them.
Regardless of whether your child has experienced any disrespect, mistreatment, or bullying, let her know that you are a safe person for her to talk to. Some kids feel embarrassed when they’ve been bullied, as if they are weak in some way, or, worse, that they might deserve the bullying they’ve experienced. Tell your child that no bullying is OK, and that she can tell you anything that has happened that has upset her. If she does come to you, stay calm and behave in a relaxed and consoling manner. You may be infuriated and distraught on the inside, but let her see that you are calm and in control.
Ask your child if there are any ways in which he can learn to cope with difficult situations on a daily basis. Is there a specific group of friends that makes him feel safe? Is there an adult present when the behavior is occurring who he trusts? Encourage him to stick with the friends he knows will support him, or even talk to a trusted adult on the scene when bullying behavior occurs. Let him know that even if he thinks he is handling the situation on his own, he should always keep you in the loop and let you know when there’s been a difficulty, whether it’s at school, at soccer practice, at the playground, or at a friend’s home.
Once you’ve spoken with your child, speak with the adults present where this behavior is taking place. If your child is a preschooler, talking to her teacher will allow this teacher to keep an eye out for upsetting scenarios in the classroom, and she may be able to nip the situation in the bud. As your child gets older, you may want to speak with his teacher, his coach, or other adult supervisors of his activities. If the situation is very challenging, speak with administrators and other parents. Ask them what can be done to prevent the behavior from going further.
If bullying behavior begins to intensify, or continues even when there has been intervention, speak with teachers, parents, and administrators to come up with an action plan to end the bullying and to prevent bullying behavior in the future. Sometimes, a group of adults needs to work as a team to make sure that the classroom feels safe for everyone, anti-bullying policies are being enforced, and kids are being spoken to at home about bullying.
Have you spoken to your child about bullying? Have you needed to speak to other adults in your child’s community about a difficult situation at school or in her activities? Let us know what was most effective to end bullying, in the comments section.