Bullying occurs in almost every school, neighborhood and/or family, regardless of whether or not you are aware of it. In fact, according to Mississippi State University (2013), approximately 31% of kids reported being victims of bullying and approximately 4% of kids reported being cyber-bullied or bullied in their homes or neighborhoods. This form of aggression involves violence, social isolation, teasing, gossiping and threatening behaviors (American Psychological Association, 2013).
Bullying is a serious problem that not only affects your kids, but also the rest of your family. It is important that you talk to your kids about the signs and consequences of bullying. Your kids not only need to know how to appropriately respond to bullies, they also need to know who to tell if they feel threatened. If you feel that your kids are exhibiting bullying behaviors or you just want to talk to them about coping with various forms of aggression, you have come to the right place. This article can teach you how to talk to your kids about bullying so that they can protect themselves from harm.
According to Dr. Walter Roberts, professor of counseling education at Minnesota State University (2006), the following suggestions can help you find the right way to talk to your kids about bullying:
Although it is often hard to know exactly how to talk to your kids about bullying, it is extremely important that you define what constitutes bullying. In other words, clarify that bullying is a form of aggression. It is a way for one or more people to dominate another person. This type of aggression is considered a type of verbal, emotional and/or physical abuse.
Bullying can consist of calling other kids degrading and/or embarrassing names, gossiping about them, forcing them to do what you want them to do, excluding them from groups, threatening to harm them, spreading nasty rumors about them, taking possession of their personal belongings, posting damaging things about them on the internet (cyber bulling) and/or physically attacking them (American Psychological Association, 2013).
Ask Open-Ended Questions
You may have a hard time deciding when and how to talk to your kids about bullying, but asking open-ended questions is a good way to start. Avoid questions that only yield “yes” or “no” answers, instead ask questions that require your kids to really think about what you are asking them.
For instance, get your kids to communicate with you by asking questions like “What would you do if someone called you names, pushed you, etc.?” “What do you think about people who bully others?” and/or “What do you consider bullying behaviors?” Asking open-ended questions will open up the gateway to communication between you and your kids. This will allow your kids to share their experiences, fears, pressures and true feelings with you.
Knowing how to talk to your kids about bullying can be tricky, but one of the most effective ways to accomplish this task is to approach the topic indirectly. For instance, if you find that talking to your kids about bullying makes them uncomfortable rent a movie that deals with bullying or watch a television show that focuses on aggression and/or bullying behaviors.
Make sure you watch the show with your kids and once you have finished watching it ask them what they thought about the show or movie. This activity not only allows your kids to express how they really feel about bullying, it also allows them to share whether or not they have ever witnessed, participated in or experience a similar situation.
American Psychological Association. (2013). Bullying. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/bullying/
Mississippi State University. (2013). Bullying: School safety. Retrieved from http://www.ssrc.msstate.edu/mskidscount/downloads/Databook2012/sections/201 2SchoolSafety.pdf
Roberts, W. B. (2005). Bullying from both sides: Strategic interventions for working with bullies & victims [Kindle DX version].