5 Do’s and Don’ts of Helping Kids Handle Bullying
One of the most common reasons parents approach me is to ask for my advice on how to help their child handle a bullying situation at school. Fear for their child’s well-being combined with a sense of powerlessness at changing peer dynamics often leaves moms, dads, and other caregivers feeling helpless. The bad news is that conflict and bullying are pervasive among school-aged kids and most students will be impacted by physical or social aggression either directly or indirectly. The good news is that there are many, many ways that parents can help safeguard their children and positively impact kids’ relationships. Here are five of the simplest—yet most powerful—do’s and don’ts parents can use to help their kids handle conflict and bullying:
1. Words Matter
Do help kids understand the difference between unintentionally rude behavior (such as butting ahead in the lunch line), mean comments said in a moment of anger between friends (e.g. “You’re not my best friend anymore”), and bullying behavior that is characteristically marked by purposeful cruelty that is repeated over time and involves an abuse of power (whether that power be size and strength or social rank at school.)
Don’t allow kids to over-label rude and mean behaviors as ‘bullying.’ In recent years, gratuitous references to bullying in schools and communities have created a “little boy who cried wolf” phenomena, resulting in jaded adults failing to take action when needed and vulnerable children missing out on the adult support they desperately need.
2. Conflict is OK
Do teach your child that it is perfectly normal to disagree with a friend. Differences of opinion are perfectly acceptable and learning how to communicate them respectfully is a critical social skill.
Don’t worry that you’re too much of a helicopter parent if you intervene in your child’s friendship conflict. Kids are not born knowing how to resolve conflict (goodness knows too many people make it to adulthood without this knowledge!). Young people need supportive adults to coach them in how to disagree without arguing and how to apologize after they’ve behaved badly.
To read the rest of the article, please visit Signe’s blog on Psychology Today.