How to Help Your Child Deal with Bullies

A distressed teen at homeHow do we equip our children with the skills to deal with bullies and the people who try to make their lives difficult? Victims of bullying might feel hurt, alone, scared, depressed, or desperate for help. Often, children end up in counseling because they have been bullied and they may react with aggression. As adults, we can intervene sooner.

What Can You Do to Help Your Child?

Ask your child if he or she is being bullied, and take it seriously when he or she talks to you. It can be difficult for children to be open and honest with adults about being bullied. They may fear that by talking, they will invite more problems into their lives. Avoid minimizing their problems. The “toughen up” approach does not always help, because when a child is being picked on, it is often by another group of children. As adults, we often have a hard enough time confronting a group of people. Imagine what it must be like for a child.

Teach your child to ignore it. Often, bullies keep picking on the same kid because they enjoy getting a reaction from that child, and it makes the bullies feel good. By teaching our children to ignore those barbs and jabs, and then to avoid the tormentor, it can take the bully’s fun away. Without fun, the bully is not likely to continue bullying. This can be a hard skill for children to learn and apply well. Give them consistent encouragement, and congratulate them each time they successfully ignore the bully.

Encourage your child to be more social. Helping your youngster to make a group of friends and to learn social skills can reduce their likelihood of being picked on. Bullies may be daunted by a group of kids who will not allow a bully to hurt any member of the group. Teach your child to help stick up for friends, and those friends will likely stick up for your child. Dealing with bullies can be difficult, and when children see someone else being picked on, it can be hard to step up and say something to a teacher, adult, or directly to the bully. Reinforce and commend your child for getting involved.

Be an advocate. Teachers, schools, coaches, and other parents are often overwhelmed by the number of concerns they must deal with every day. They may not be aware that your child is being bullied. When your child tells you they are being picked on, get details and specifics—who, what, when, and how. Then, inform the teachers, principal, coach, or other responsible adults, and pass along as much information as you can so they can address the problem. You can also ask your child’s teacher to teach all students to stand up for each other, creating safety in numbers. In this way, no single child is left to stand up to the bully alone.

Know your child’s friends and who your child is involved with. A new aspect of bullying is cyber-bullying. This has taken on a much larger role as kids become savvy with the Internet and social networks. Monitor your child’s Facebook and other social network accounts; what is posted online becomes permanent. If you notice bullying online, record as many of the details as possible so you can inform the school, the bully’s parents, or the police. Teach your children not to post too much information online, and show them how to stay safe when they use the Internet.

Warning Signs of Bullying

Remember that bullying can happen anywhere; not just at school, but also on sports teams, at work, at friends’ houses, or at day care. If you suspect that your child is being bullied, there are several behavioral warning signs to look for, including:

  • Acts withdrawn
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Clothing is torn
  • Fears going to school
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Mood changes
  • Stops talking about school
  • Finds excuses to miss school
  • Has new friends
  • Displays aggressive behavior at home or at school (Sometimes if your child is being bullied, he or she will take it out on a sibling.)

Bullying can make childhood and adolescence hard. Adults can be advocates for children who appear to be victims of bullying and can help or teach them new ways to cope.

© Copyright 2011 by Jeffrey Gallup. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Kellen

    Kellen

    November 30th, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    Who is the parent who would not intervene and try to stop the bullying? kids are not equipped to handle any of this on their own.

  • AnDy

    AnDy

    November 30th, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    I was bullied as a child at school and my parent never spoke anything about bullying at all.i lived in fear and resisted going to school.But even that did not give them an idea that there could be a problem.Finally my friends went up to my parents and told them about it and only then did things improve.
    I wish they had rid me of the torment earlier.
    Very nice tips suggested here by you and I am very thankful for the same.I am sure its going to help a lot of parents help their kids.

  • susan henriques

    susan henriques

    December 1st, 2011 at 2:50 AM

    if only kids could see and understand what we do! I would definitely tell my child from day one that bullying is not a mistake on their part and reporting it will only bring them relief and that they need not fear anything.while it could take a few tries I think this is the best method because you cannot monitor them 24X7 and they will eventually need to speak out if the issue is to be resolved.

  • Jeffrey S Gallup LPC

    Jeffrey S Gallup LPC

    December 1st, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    Bullying is a tough problem for parents to deal with, and often we do not know the best advice to give to children. When it is suspected I think getting all of the adults involved were ever the child is being bullied is the best start to the solution.

  • Vonnie

    Vonnie

    August 8th, 2013 at 9:57 PM

    “By teaching our children to ignore those barbs and jabs, and then to avoid the tormentor, it can take the bully’s fun away, and without fun, they are not likely to keep bullying.” Not always. Sometimes the bully will just look for another victim, but not always. Bullying is like crack and when the bully does not get their fix, the bullying can become more severe. What may have started as taunts can quickly escalate and become physical abuse if the taunts are not generating a desired response.

  • Jeff Miner

    Jeff Miner

    October 21st, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    To work with the bullied is very important but working with the bullies is the solution. The bullies aren’t bad people, they have just learned bad ways of expressing their feelings. How can you help young people to express their feelings differently. By teaching them. As a society we fail to recognize that we train children to respond by aggression. Have you ever heard a parent say “This hurts me more than it hurts you”. Parents, stop bullying your kids!

  • Jessica

    Jessica

    March 15th, 2017 at 5:16 AM

    Bullying and aggression can affect any child. While it is pivotal to know if your kid is victimised, you also need to teach coping strategies.
    parentcircle.com/article/how-to-help-your-child-deal-with-bullies/

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