Most parents are exposed to a wealth of information about bullying, from how to help the victim to how to raise a child who refrains from bullying behavior. While this is certainly helpful, it’s unfortunate that children are almost never the target of these messages. If you want your child to know more about bullying, chances are the lesson needs to come from you. With that in mind, here are some key points to cover.
Your child can always talk to you.
This may sound like universal advice, but many victims of bullying refrain from telling their parents or other adults simply because they don’t believe it will help. It’s important that your children know they can come to you with their concerns and that you won’t doubt or minimize their problems. If they’re afraid that you will only invalidate their very real issues, they will be less likely to tell you about them—even when prompted. So listen, but don’t judge, and empathize rather than invalidate.
It’s not the victim’s fault.
Many victims of bullying wrongly take the blame upon themselves. They might think they either did something wrong to attract the bully or that they’re failures for not being able to make it stop. Children need to know that bullying originates with the bully—not the victim. Falling victim to a bully does not mean there’s something wrong with your child. This is something you need to help your child understand.
Your child could be a bully and not know it.
Sometimes children don’t know that the behavior they’re exhibiting is unacceptable and that they’re actually bullying others. Talk with your child about how to get along with people, how to deal with conflict and how to handle difficult relationships both at school and outside the home.
Make sure your child knows the type of behavior that is unacceptable. If you discover that his or her behavior is inappropriate, it may be up to you to bring this to your child’s attention. It’s also important to maintain an open line of communication with your child’s teachers. In some instances, this may be the only way to get to the heart of the matter.
Far too many people are the victims of bullying, which, of course, is not limited to children. Regardless of age, it should not be tolerated. So don’t wait. Talk to your kids about bullying today.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street Columbus, OH 43206 or by phone at 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.