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How to Handle Bullies

My daughter has encountered several bullies in her eight years of life. We have handled them together and this is our advice on the subject.

Our Story

My daughter encountered her first bully in kindergarten. It was a boy in her class who would pull her hair and poke her in the back when they sat on the floor during class. Her teacher told her that he just liked her, and they tended to blow off his behavior. When my daughter told me what was happening, I asked her if she wanted me to talk to her teacher. She said that she would rather handle it herself, so I told her to let the boy know that she didn't want to be touched and that he needed to respect her wishes. The same boy sat across from her and he would mess up her work and hit her desk with his. Once again, my daughter came to me for advice. I told her that as long as he wasn't hurting her, she should just ignore him. I told her he was trying to get her attention and once he couldn't get her attention he would move on. My daughter went to school and followed my advice. I asked her how it went, and she said that the boy started crying when she ignored him, but he began to change his approach to her and now she says he is nice to her.

My daughter has had other bullies who are girls. The girls are usually mad that she is friends with someone they consider to be their best friend. Last year, when my daughter was in second grade, there was one girl who would step on her feet, cut in front of her in line, push her out of the way, and make rude comments to her. When she asked me for advice, I once again asked if she wanted me to talk to her teacher. She said that she wanted to handle it herself and asked what she should do. I told her that the girl was trying to get attention and since the she couldn't ignore such behavior, she should call the girl out. I told her she could just ask the girl to stop, or she could ask the girl what she needed. So, she did just that. The girl stepped on her feet, and she said, "Yes, can I help you?" When the girl looked puzzles and asked, "what?", my daughter responded, "You stepped on my feet, weren't you trying to get my attention." My daughter said the girl looked at her and didn't know what to say, but she stopped stepping on her feet.

My daughter often gives advice to others who are being bullied and she calls out the bullies. Her and her classmates are learning how to combat bullying together. It's important that children learn how to be a good friend. We can't accept that kids will bully each other because they like them. They need to know that we don't hurt those we like, or anyone for that matter. These children will one day grow up to be adults, so it's important that they know how to treat other people and know to stand up for those who need it.

My Advice for Helping Your Kids with Bullying

  1. Ask your child if they want to handle the situation on their own, or if they would like you to intervene. I would suggest letting your child handle it as long as they are not in physical danger. They will be faced with bullies many times in their lives, and it's important that they know how to handle them and have the confidence to handle situations on their own. If they do want to handle the situation on their own, just make sure you don't talk to the teacher without them knowing. Doing so will break their trust in you.

  2. Explain to your child that people usually bully because they are having a problem expressing themselves. Usually, bullies are looking for attention and they don't know how else to get attention. Explain how all families are different and that their bully may not be receiving attention at home. It's good for them to develop empathy and understand that not all children have a good home life. It's never an excuse to hurt others, but sometimes they simply don't know any better.

  3. Give helpful advice to your child. Give them options and let them choose the route that is best for them. Do some role playing if they find it helpful.

  4. Follow up with your child. Ask them if they went with the plan, and if so, how it went. If they didn't feel comfortable handling the situation, ask them if they would like for you to step in or come up with a new plan.

  5. Keep an open dialogue with your child so they feel comfortable coming to you with problems in the future.

Unfortunately, bullies are a part of life. We all face them at some point in our lives, so it's important for everyone to learn how to deal with them. Support your child and help them build their confidence.



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