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How to talk to your child about bullies

Bullies are everywhere and even as adults and parents, we constantly run into them. Whether it’s a dining patron screaming at a young waitress for bringing the wrong order, or an annoying co-worker that constantly shuts down your ideas; bullies exist and they will continue to exist. This is why it’s important for children to learn about how to deal with them in a positive way.

The lessons to be taught about bullies are important while children are young but are also useful as kids grow up and become adults. A child’s exposure to bullies is virtually inevitable in school, thus a parent needs to be aware of their child’s situation and be available to support them during difficult times.

So what can parents do when their child gets bullied?

Firstly address the question “Why do kids bully?”

It’s important to explain that bullying is a show of dominance and control by the perpetrators. Bullies target peers that are physically or emotionally weaker than themselves. However, it is important to let your kids know that bullies are still ultimately human and the way they act is often a reflection of how they are treated at home.

This humanization makes sure kids are less afraid and even empathetic towards bullies. From this, kids can comprehend the reasons why bullies are mean and aggressive and how to deal with it.

Listen to your child and reassure them

If your child tells you about being bullied, it is important to listen carefully and treat them calmly and respectfully. It takes a lot for a child to talk about these things, so the role of the parent must be supportive in order to reassure kids that it is perfectly fine to talk about it. Children may feel ashamed to tell their parents about bullying as they are afraid of disappointing them. Parents must show their children that this is not true at all and must praise children for coming forward.

Also, parents should emphasize that bullies are always the one in the wrong; not your child. After this, promise your child that you will figure out what to do about it together.

Give your child helpful advice

Here are some practical strategies you can pass on to your child so that they can improve their situation:

  • Use the buddy system: Make sure you have someone with you so that you’re never alone with the bully. You can also offer to do the same for a friend!
  • Try not to get angry: Try not to react to bullies as they feel more powerful when they can evoke a negative reaction. This can come in the form of practicing a ‘poker face’ so that the bully will lose interest. Strategies to help you calm down can also help (counting to 10, taking deep breaths etc.)
  • Tell an adult: Talk to a teacher, the principal or even other parents as they can all help to stop bullying. Talking to someone about it is also important so that you know you’re not alone.

Rebuild your child’s confidence

Dealing with bullies may hurt a child’s confidence and trust in others. To rebuild their self-esteem, encourage kids to play with friends that can influence them in a more positive way. Tell them to stay active and join teams or clubs that can build strong relationships and a sense of achievement.

Always give your full attention to your child as you do not want to discourage them the next time they have something important to tell you. In the end, the most important job for a parent is to always listen attentively to your child and to believe in them. Also reassure your child that you trust them and that you’ll put in the effort to deal with bullying whenever it is necessary.

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