How to Respond to Bullying

Did you know one out of four kids is bullied? Did you know bullying affects millions of students? 

Bullying is a serious issue. Whether your child is physically bullied or hurt by words from classmates, it is important to acknowledge the problem. Never ignore your child. Let them know they can come to you with any problems at an early age by being open with them and talking about issues as they arise. It is important to let them know you are someone they can vent their fears and frustrations to safely.

Understanding the Issue

As the saying by MBA Coach William Mcavoy goes, “The first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one.” 

It is important to understand what bullying is and is not. Bullying has three basic characteristics: deliberation, repetition, and authority or power imbalance. When listening to your child’s complaints, assess the situation. Does it sound like it was an accident? Is it the first time you are hearing about it? Does your child come off as vulnerable? 

Before jumping to conclusions about the situation, make sure all the criteria fit. We don’t mean if something doesn’t fit you should ignore the situation, but talk to your child about how to proceed. If you continue to hear about the same student teasing or poking fun, then you will need to take action. 

You might be asking: what should you do if they don’t outright open up about a potential bullying situation? If that is the case, be on the lookout for some typical warning signs including changes in eating habits, difficulty sleeping, declining grades, sudden loss of friends, avoidance of social situations, etc. 

Instill Confidence. 

If you answered “yes” to “does your child come off as vulnerable,” try self-defense classes! Tae Kwon Do or martial arts are great ways to instill confidence in kids and teach them to stand up for themselves. 
Caution: Be sure it is understood that these new skills are teaching them not to pick fights or entertain the idea of fights. 

Maintain your Cool

Stay calm, cool and collected. If your child is being bullied, emotions are easily evoked. Your attitude and actions can influence how your child sees fit to deal with the situation. Here are a few don’ts for parents: 

  • Do not blame the victim; reassure them
  • Do not overreact; remain level-headed
  • Do not ignore the situation or jump to conclusions; listen calmly and get the full story

Handling the Immediate Issue

Kids don’t have to (and shouldn’t need to) fight their battles alone. The first tactic in handling a bully is to intervene right away. If you are there the moment a fight breaks out or a situation presents itself, separate the kids. This doesn’t only protect your child but everyone involved. 

Contacting Parents of Children Involved

This is tricky. Every situation is different, but if you feel it is necessary, reach out to the parents of other children involved in the situation. The main thing to remember is that you will both have different stories, and the idea of a meeting is to be constructive and helpful for the safety and health of each of your children. If you are going to set up a meeting with the parents, don’t be afraid to stand your ground, but be willing to compromise as well when necessary. 

Contacting the School

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the supervisors who watch over your child during the day. While your child may be reluctant to the idea because they are afraid of becoming a “tattle-tale,” talk it over with them and reassure them that it will be okay. Make an appointment to meet with the principal or counselor immediately if you have concerns about your child’s safety. Remember to be friendly with the school personnel; children benefit from strong partnerships between school and family.  

After you’ve talked with the school, be sure to check in every once in a while to make sure the situation is on its way to resolution.

Note: It’s a lot easier to see a physical situation in public places like schools, playgrounds, parties, etc. Not all bullying takes place in person though. Read our previous article, “A parent’s guide to keeping kids safe online” for more tips on monitoring your child’s internet and social media use.

Written by Sarah Richards