How do you respond when your child is being bullied? It’s one of the toughest questions we ask ourselves as parents. Before our children are even born, we do everything we can to protect them. Then they come into this big, scary world, and our role as protector becomes even more important. We make sure they eat the right foods (or at least don’t have mac and cheese every day), childproof the house, take them to the doctor at the drop of a hat and teach them about stranger danger. Then the time comes that they head off to school, and we have to take a leap of faith that they’ll be alright.
When you learn, after all that love and work you put into protecting your child, that they are being bullied, you will be furious. As angry as you are, it’s important to handle the situation appropriately to protect yourself and minimize further backlash on your child. Here are some suggestions to help you calmly respond when you learn your child is being bullied.
How to Respond When Your Child is Being Bullied
- Get the facts. Ask your child to tell you all the details of what happened, starting before the other child bullied him. Uncover as many details as you can prior to taking action. Make sure your child knows you believe him and you are glad he is talking to you.
- Discuss with your child how she would like you to respond. If you strongly feel that you should talk with the other child’s parent or the teacher, start the conversation by telling your child that is what you would like to do. Explain why you feel that way; for example, “It doesn’t sound as though you feel safe around Joey. I would like to talk to your teacher about what is going on, if that is okay with you.” If she doesn’t want you to talk with the parent or teacher, set limits regarding when you will need to do so, such as, “Alright, but if Joey hits you again, I need to talk with your teacher so I can be sure you stay safe.”
- Encourage your child to stand up for himself. Role play with your child how he could respond if something like that happens again. Ask him for his input, but give him the words to use if he’s having a hard time coming up with them.
- Discuss the difference between telling and tattling. This is a hard one – kids learn not to tattle, but they need to realize when they should tell. Talk with your child about the importance of telling her teacher when she feels unsafe or uncomfortable about something a classmate is doing to or saying to her.
- Check in regularly with your child regarding the behavior. Ask your child if he saw the bully today. If so, did they talk to each other? Did the bully do anything? Try to avoid questions like, “Did Joey hit you today?” By asking non-threatening questions, you may get more information from your child.
- If the behavior continues, escalate appropriately. If your child’s attempts to stop the bullying behavior don’t work, it’s time to talk with the teacher and/or principal of the school (or the child’s parent if it happens outside of school). If the child is older and you feel the behavior is egregious enough, you may even want to look into filing a police report.
Much juvenile bullying can be stopped by your child simply standing up for himself, but if that doesn’t work, be your child’s advocate. Childhood is hard enough – being bullied should never be tolerated!