“Mom,” he began.
“Stephanie made fun of me today.”
“What did she say to you?”
“She was making fun of me because of my food allergies. She was saying I was weird because I can’t eat tree nuts and she was laughing at me.”
“I’m sorry buddy…”
I will never forget that conversation with my son. It was a day I knew would come and a day I was dreading. My son was being bullied at school.
I wish I could say that has been the only incident, but it hasn’t. My son has had other kids make fun of him and say mean things to him. There was even a girl at school who threw sand in his face.
At one point or another, most of our children will be victims of bullying. Whether it’s verbal abuse, physical, or cyberbullying, so many children experience bullying by others. This is not OK and it needs to stop.
As parents, our first instinct when we discover our child is being bullied (at school) is to tell the teacher or call the principal. Sometimes we tell our kids to do the same thing. Maybe we expect it to be handled at school and leave it at that. But there is so much more we can do!
Help promote Bullying Prevention Month by teaching your children how to stand up to bullies (and how not to be a bully).
Bullying Prevention Tips
Treat Everyone With Respect
We all know the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated. While it may seem cliche, this one rule can go a long way to prevent bullying.
Ask your children how they feel when someone makes fun of them. Then ask them if they would want another child to feel that way. Children don’t like to be hurt by others, so teaching them how to be sympathetic towards others and treating others how they want to be treated, is a huge step in the anti-bullying campaign.
It’s also important to remind children that everyone is different and that those differences are to be celebrated, not made fun of. If your child isn’t sure how to be nice to someone instead of mean to them, help them out by giving them some simple ideas. It all starts at home…
Stand Up For Others
Encourage your children to help stop bullying by standing up for others. While it can be very scary to a child to step in when they see a friend being bullied, there are safe ways they can help.
Let your child know if they see bullying happening to talk to you (their parent) or another adult they trust, such as a teacher, school counselor or pastor. It’s important to let an adult know what is happening so the adult can intervene.
And be sure to encourage your child to show kindness to the other child being bullied. They can hang out with them at lunch or recess, sit with them on the school bus, or invite them over to play. Just including them will let that child know they are not alone.
No matter their age, your children can help be a leader in their school and community in the fight against bullying. Encourage your children to find out when and where bullying happens at school. Next, have them come up with some ideas about how to help. Then have your child share those ideas with you and other adults they trust (teachers, school counselor, etc.). There is a good chance that many teachers don’t know bullying is occurring. It’s important to make them aware of the situation so they can step in and take action.
You can also encourage your child to talk to their principal about bullying. If there isn’t one already, maybe they can create a school safety team/bullying prevention team. They could make posters against bullying and hang them throughout the school. Students can brainstorm with teachers and the principal to come up with practical ways to help stop bullying. There are so many possibilities!
What to do if your Child is the Victim of Bullying
It breaks this mama’s heart when my son tells me he’s being bullied. But a lot of times as parents we feel so helpless in these situations. We can’t be with our children 24/7 and fight their battles for them. Instead, we need to teach our children how to stand up for themselves and give them ideas on what they can do if they are the victim of bullying.
Teach Your Children To…
- Use their words – Sometimes just speaking to the bully and telling them to stop in a clear calm voice can work. You can also tell your child to laugh it off in front of the bully as if it doesn’t bother them. This can catch the bully off guard and make them stop.
- Walk away – If it’s too hard for your child to speak back or the situation appears unsafe, tell your child to just turn and walk away. They can prevent the situation from getting worse right off the bat. If they truly feel unsafe, have your child go find a teacher and alert them to the situation.
- Stay away from places bullying takes place – Most of the time, bullying takes place out of sight of teachers and administrators at school; maybe it even takes place in specific places over and over. If that’s the case, encourage your child to stay away from those areas. Let them know it’s safer to stay near other students and adults, where bullies are less likely to come after them.
- Talk about it – Encourage your child to talk to you or another trusted adult if they are being bullied. So many times our children bottle things up inside and don’t talk about what’s happening. It can make them feel sad and alone. But if we encourage them to talk about it, they will know they are NOT alone and that they can get help.
There are plenty of resources out there to help children who are victims of bullies and on bullying prevention.
- Stopbullying.gov is a fantastic resource full of helpful information.
- Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention site is another great place to go for help.
- Magination Press is wonderful and publishes books on a variety of topics affecting children, including bullying.
- Amazon also has an incredible list of books available on bullying.
- If you’re looking for a book specifically on food allergy bullying, check out The Cupcake Bullies.