There are many ways to help kids deal with bullies! Here are a few strategies you can try:
- Share books, articles, personal experiences, items in the news, or your take on something happening at a particular moment when you are out and about. Knowledge is prevention.
- Share your time with them. Even 30 minutes once a week at Dairy Queen, just the two of you, can be a great moment to talk and share and learn about each other’s week. Find something special that works for you.
- Kids need information and a time and place to reflect and process, no matter what their age. That way, if “something happens,” they have a place to sort and file the experience in their brains and are aware of a time and place to communicate it to the adults that they love.
- When kids talk with you about being bullied, believe them. Their perceptions are nearly always valid, although they may differ on a certain set of circumstances with yours. Nearly always, they are trying to tell you something about what they need, even if they are not “telling the truth” or seem to be exaggerating the situation. Kids feel what they feel. We want to help them understand better what those feelings are and how to manage their feelings (instead of letting the feelings manage them!). When they share something, listen before you talk.
- When you talk, consider how to say something in a way that is positive and not judgmental or shameful. Something like: “I am really glad that you were honest enough to come and tell me how you spoke to Jessica. It’s important to be honest and to admit when you think you have done something wrong. I wonder what you think you could do to make it better?” Or, “I love the way you get so excited to be captain. How do you think you can talk about it so that it doesn’t make the other kids feel not so good because they were not chosen?” Notice the open ended questions and the “I” language.
- Take some time to reflect on your own behavior and how you can be the best possible role model! Kids learn much more from what they see us do than what they hear us say. They are listening to you talk on the phone with friends and about others. They are watching how you respond to the person who cuts in front of you in traffic. They see what you don’t do when a stranger needs help with a heavy door or cumbersome bag. Just think about it.
- Teach kids to problem-solve by role playing and practicing pretend scenes. It’s similar to needing to practice math facts or spelling words; social skills are also learned and need to be practiced. Our kids with disabilities in learning and attention often have particular problems with learning social skills because their processing of the world can be different than what might be considered typical. Social behavior can be hard to learn! Practice makes competence!
- Every child needs at least one friend and one activity that they are good at. For some kids, this is more of a challenge than for others. But as teachers and parents, we have to find a way to make it happen.
- Know when you need to make that adult intervention and speak with a teacher, ask a question, or stop an activity. Ultimately, you know your child better than anyone. Go with what your gut tells you about what needs to happen. But don’t be a bully in the process (this is tougher than it seems)!