Bullying: 10 Things We Can Do to Keep Them Safer at School

We know our kids will have the new school supplies they need to start school, but have we given them the tools they need to deal with more than the reading, writing and arithmetic?

With the new school year quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to sit down with our children and talk about bullying.

Studies estimate that 1 out of 3 children are bullied, and over 150,000 children a day, skip school because they fear being bullied by another student.

As parents, there is much we can do to help our children avoid, prepare for, and deal with bullying. This will ease our children’s minds, and ours.

What do we do…

1. We realize, that no matter what we do, OUR KIDS WILL FACE CONFRONTATION in their lives. In school, in college, in the work place, in their neighborhoods, in marriage, as parents. Confrontation is part of life. We have to prepare them for it.

2. We need to help our children understand that it is never okay to fight. For the most part, nothing good comes of fighting. Fighting is not the answer. When our children are 40 and they have a disagreement with a coworker, they can’t use their fists to solve the problem then. Why would we teach them that that is how to deal with conflict now. It is not a skill that will serve them through their lives. That said, we need to teach our children to stand up for themselves in self-defense. They should know that if they need to defend themselves because they are being, or going to be physically attacked, then they defend themselves. And, that if they do have to fight in self-defense, that we will not be angry, but understand. They need to know that they always defend themselves if/when things turn physical.

Then, we need to…

3. Talk to our children when they are young. Waiting until our kids are bullied is not a good time to start addressing the issue. Use situations and find ways to bring up the subject and discuss it when they are young. Children who feel embarrassed or humiliated about being bullied are very unlikely to come home and share how they feel. Make it clear to your children that you are always there to listen, and that you can relate. If it is hard to talk to them, round up some children’s books on the subject, or ask your spouse to help. Don’t scare your children, but inform them.

4. Role-Play: Give your children different scenarios and teach them how to handle them. “What do you do if…?” (someone calls you a name, makes fun of you, someone takes your lunch, someone hits you). Go through each situation and teach them what to say and do. It will empower them, and when they are faced with the bully they wont be as intimidated because they will have had experience and practiced ways to handle the situation.

Role play simple words and actions…

  • Stand up straight and tall – Shoulders back
  • Don’t show emotion
  • Use a firm voice

5. Teach Conflict Resolution. We have to teach our children how to deal with conflict and confrontation. Teach them to manage their anger, communicate, and listen. Teach them how to compromise and be patient. This is done through everyday life situations and role-play. As conflict happens in your home, between siblings, use it to teach. We also must be good examples of conflict resolution in our own adult lives.

6. Let children work things out themselves. As parents we can be very quick to step in and stop the arguing and disagreements between our children. We decide who we think is the winner, and then go about our business. We feel good because the conflict and contention has stopped. We need to let our children work out their own disagreements. If we will sit back and watch, they will almost always be able to solve their own problems. Family situations are the perfect place for them to practice working through conflict when dealing with others. There is no better schoolroom than our home.

7. Keep our Ears Open. When our kids try and talk to us, we have to listen. They will drop little hints when there are bullying problems. It is easy to miss the cues when we are not really listening to what is being said. When our kids’ talk to us, we need to put everything else aside and really be in the moment to listen. Kids will tell us there is a problem long before bullying turns physical, listen to them.

8. Acknowledge Verbal Abuse. Just because it isn’t physical, doesn’t mean it is okay. Verbal bullying causes children to feel the same things as physical bullying: fear, loneliness, depression, anxiety, emotional distress, and lower self-esteem. Don’t blow off your child’s concerns.

9. Give them a hobby, interest, sport, talent, where they can excel. Build their self-confidence. We should involve our children in healthy activities where they find success. Something they like, that challenges them and where they can excel. Whether it is sports, a hobby or an interest. These activities will boost their self-confidence and belief in themselves, teach them how to deal with success and failure, solve problems, deal with others and speak their minds. A strong self-esteem is our child’s best defense against bullying.

10. Model/Teach Empathy As parents, we need to model kind, gentle behavior for our children. They learn by watching us. Be sure that the other adults and kids that are around our children demonstrate empathy as well. We need to teach our kids to try to understand other’s points of view and to feel compassion towards others. If we are always raising our voices, showing impatience, and arguing, they will do the same. Empathetic children are also less likely to become bullies themselves.

As parents, we can do a lot to help our children deal with bullying. Send your children to school with more than just new pencils. Send them with confidence and strength to deal with conflict and stand up for themselves.


About the Author

Heather Ann Johnson is a homemaker, wife and mother. She and her husband have 4 children. She is an Adjunct Faculty member at Brigham Young University where she teaches students the principles behind successful families. Her site, Family Volley, answers reader’s questions about families, marital relationships, and raising children. Heather is a former member of the PedSafe Expert team


7 Responses to “Bullying: 10 Things We Can Do to Keep Them Safer at School”

  1. My son just entered first grade and he’s an Alpha male (wonder where he gets that from) but he’s also very sensitive and loving (that too lol) so I worry about bullying. Kindergarten went well so I’m hoping this year will too! Great tips!

  2. Suzanne Hantke says:

    Thank you for bringing up a great topic. I especially like the last question you posed… “WERE YOU EVER BULLIED AS A CHILD? AS AN ADULT? HAS YOUR CHILD BEEN BULLIED?”

    I read a fantastic book not too long ago written by Jodee Blanco called “Please Stop Laughing At Me . . . One Woman’s Inspirational Story.” She has become the country’s leading authority on school bullying. The book is about her own personal story and opens up with her sitting in her car in front of her old high school, terrified to go in for her high school reunion. “Referred to by many as “the anti-bullying bible,” it is required reading in hundreds of middle and high schools and numerous universities throughout the country”. .

    Her program is called I.N.J.J.A. (It’s Not Just Joking Around) She does speaking engagements at schools, (age appropriate to her audience), parents, teachers, etc. and at the end of the book she gives instructions to readers on how to get her to speak at their (your) schools. To coin an NA phrase, she shares her “experience, strength and hope.”

    I brought up her book because I do not think I ever associated being teased mercilessly in school as a child with difficulties I have had with regards to the low self esteem, or the depression I struggled with for years. I know I never considered it being bullied. (Or maybe subconsciously I did; after all, there had to have been a reason this book, out of thousands got my attention) Maybe because I always related my difficulties to other experiences I had that were traumatic . But it has been one of the best (most significant and meaningful) books I have read to-date. Everything she talked about… from advice she was given by her parents to “ignore them and they’ll stop” (which anyone ever bullied knows is not the case) and “They know they are getting a rise out of you… that’s why they keep doing it… just walk away” (Newsflash: they follow you!) to the depression she fell into and the shame she felt, and the belief that there was something wrong with her…. I could relate to perfectly. And being sent to therapists just confirmed to me that there really WAS something wrong with me. I do not think it takes a rocket scientist to look back and say, “hmmm… which would I prefer: to stay home sick, where Mom took care of me and made me feel good, or go to school and deal with mean, nasty, horrible kids for 7 hours.” Needless to say I did everything I could possibly think of to stay home.

    I loved what you said Heather, about really listening to the kids. Putting things down and giving them your full attention. Bravo to you for saying that! Even though I do not have children of my own, I see it all around me… getting so busy worrying about what you should pack for their lunch, but never questioning what was going on for them during that unstructured, barely supervised free time with regards to their interaction with other kids.

    If I would have one piece of advice for parents, based on my own personal history, it would be to not just ask your kids how they feel, but to ask the more critical question (in my mind anyway) which would be “How do you feel about yourself?” I think my answer to that question would have been a huge tip-off that I wasn’t ‘struggling with my parents’ divorce’ when I was 7.

  3. EllenaSmith says:

    Parents should pay attention with our kids if they are being bullied, every time our children get home from school, ask them such as how was the school. We parents should do our resposibility with our children in order to keep them from being bullied. As a mom I always teach my children social survival skills, and I also teach them on how to treat others with respect. I would like to share this link, on how you can protect your children. Check this link, and you might find it interesting:

    • Stefanie Zucker sazucker says:

      Sounds like a very useful app to have – although one you hope your child never has to use. Thanks for sharing the link!

  4. joanna says:

    I never want my kid to be bullied that is why I tell them to report to their teachers if they are being bullied. I don’t want my kid to end up being troubled about his experience being bullied at school. Also, I don’t want them to be depressed because they could not do anything to stop being bullied.

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