How to help your kids understand and navigate bullying

As children grow older, parents realise that they cannot shield them forever. Everyone would love to cover them in bubble wrap for their whole lives, but at some point, they will have to deal with the real world. And sometimes for kids, the real world can be really harsh.

Some parents might get anxiety at the thought of their children getting bullied by other children. The thought that your kids can potentially be ill-treated by other people can make any parent nervous. The primary job of parents is to protect their children at all costs. But how do you protect your child when you’re not physically there with them?

Unfortunately, we can’t keep our kids in bubbles all the time, but we can give them the tools they need to survive on their own.

Educate your child about bullying

Some kids aren’t even aware that they are being bullied. They just assume that it is normal behaviour for the older boy to come take their lunch every afternoon. If your child is cognizant of the signs of bullying, then they can easily identify that it’s happening to them. Talk to them about the dynamics of bullying, why other kids bully, and that it’s not their fault they’re being bullied.

Bullying can inevitably lead kids to think that there’s something wrong with them. Maybe it’s the way they look, talk, walk, or their personality. So, rather than having kids questioning themselves, and losing their self-esteem, talk to them. Educate them on the insecurities of the bully and why they might be bullying others.

ALSO SEE: Bullying: how to spot the signs that your child is being bullied at school

Create a violence-free environment at home

This is really important. Social behavioural learning teaches us that children learn through observation. So, if a child sees violence in the home, whether verbal or physical, they are more likely to keep quiet about being bullied. This is because violence in the home normalises bullying.

The child might think: “Maybe this is how human beings are meant to interact with one another.”

Foster an open relationship with your child

Some parents often say they aren’t meant to be friends with their children, and that their job is to ensure that they are taken care of. This is all good and fair, but in the process of ensuring that your child is taken care of, also make sure that they are comfortable talking to you when they are going through something. Some parents only know months, or even years later, that their child is being bullied because their child never opened up to them. Maybe they find out from a teacher or other parents.

Children need to feel free and safe to report any form of an incident that is linked to bullying. They first need to know what bullying looks like and then report it the instant it happens. The longer they keep quiet, the more confident the bully feels and continues to bully.

Supervise their social media usage

Cyberbullying is on the rise, and more and more kids are using social media. Kids having their independence is great, but it is also important to note what your kids are up to when they are online. The more open those channels are; the more parents are equipped to guide their children through the bullying.

ALSO SEE: Why parents need to know what their tweens and teens are up to on social media

Help your kids shut it down early

Bullying hardly starts with aggressive behaviour. It starts with teasing the child about their height, their stutter, or their glasses. How your child reacts to the first harassment determines the rules of engagement going forward. A confident child can assert that they do not find pleasure in others making snotty comments about their height.

This is only possible if your child has confidence and self-esteem. If they already have insecurities about how tall they are, then bullies will prey on those insecurities.

Parents must raise confident and assertive children.

They don’t have to react to the bullying violently. Teach them subtle and respectful ways to assert themselves.

ALSO SEE: Protecting your child from cyberbullying and suicide on social media

Report, report, report!

Some kids are not as assertive as others, so it’s challenging to deal with the bullying on their own. These kids should never feel intimidated to tell their teachers that their school mate is bullying them. This might stop the bully in their tracks. The bullying might persist, and your child must also be persistent when reporting. Some cases will eventually require the intervention of both parents.

Parents shouldn’t hesitate to intervene. Your child relies on you to be protected. Parental intervention should never be the first option. The truth is that KIDS ARE MEAN.

Your son could have been bullied for their glasses, but after you intervene, they might be bullied for being a mama’s boy. Allow your child to handle the situation on their own first. If this doesn’t help, then you can step in.

There isn’t a clear-cut solution to the total eradication of bullying. But parents can do their best to help their kids first identify bullying, and then manage it accordingly.

We teach people how to treat us. So, the sooner your child can identify that they are a bully’s next victim, the sooner they can avert that behaviour.

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