Weekday nights can be hectic. Last year, we had just finished dinner as a family, and my two kids, then 7 and 3 years old, were having a bit of screen time, while my husband and I tackled the mess in the kitchen.
That’s when we heard our oldest screaming at our toddler. The kids were starting to have typical sibling spats at the time, but I had never heard my mild, quiet second grader scream at another person like that, not even in the middle of a temper tantrum. My husband immediately grabbed my toddler to calm him down and I took my daughter. She was instantly remorseful, but I was still upset she acted that way. I asked her why she yelled at her brother like that, and my heart sank at what she told me.
“Mommy, a girl at school is calling me names,” she said. She poured her heart out, telling me how this girl called her “fat” and “stupid” and that she wasn’t a good person. The mama bear in me was raging, but I let her keep talking.
No parent wants to hear that their child is being bullied or is bullying others. However, StopBullying.gov says there are steps parents can take to help prevent bullying:
Help kids understand bullying.
Studies prove that kids who know what bullying is can better identify it and what steps to take to stop it. Teach them what signs to watch for and encourage them to go to a trusted adult to report bullying.
Give tips and advice on how a child can stand up to bullying, like saying “stop” directly and confidently. Talk about what to do if those actions don’t work, like walking away. Urge them to help kids who are bullied by showing kindness or getting help.
Keep the lines of communication open.
To me, this is the most important rule. Children look to their parents for advice and help on tough decisions, and sometimes, they’re not sure how to begin to ask for help.
My husband and I have always made a point of being open and honest with our kids about what to do in certain situations. I knew she didn’t get along with this girl and had mentioned a few minor issues, but I was surprised to learn that this girl had been bullying my daughter and several other students since kindergarten. The reason my daughter didn’t come forward sooner was she didn’t want to get anyone in trouble.
Start conversations with them about their day at school or with their friends. The questions c an be as simple as “What was your favorite part of today” or “Did anything upset you today?” Checking in with your child can give that reassurance that they can come to you with any problems and can help them navigate through any big feelings that they are experiencing.
It’s also important to be involved at your child’s school. Get to know their teachers, school administration and who to talk to if something happens. My daughter’s school has a zero-bully policy, and her teacher took immediate action once I emailed her about what was happening.
Encourage kids to do what they love.
Take time to help your child find activities or interests they enjoy. This can help your child build confidence and friendships that can protect them from bullying. They can volunteer, play sports, sing in a chorus or join a youth group or a school club.
Model how to treat others.
We’ve all heard the phrase that kids are like sponges. This is definitely true with behavior. Even if it seems like they are not paying attention, kids are watching how we manage stress and conflict, as well as how we treat friends, colleagues and families. If they see us treating others with kindness and respect, we can show our children that there is no place for bullying.
If you want to learn more, visit StopBullying.gov.
Blog Post Submitted by WarmLine Member Melissa Rossiter