Bullying can exist in many forms: It can be physical (pushing, punching, or hitting), verbal (name-calling or threats), or psychological and emotional (spreading rumors or excluding someone from a conversation or activity).
And with the pervasive use of technology, bullying behavior can occur outside of school hours via emails, text messages, DMs, and even social media posts. These exchanges, known as cyberbullying, can be particularly hurtful and aggressive, and their harmful effects are often brought back into school the next day.
Here are some ways to deal with bullies:
Create a list of responses: Practice phrases your child can use to tell someone to stop bullying behavior. These should be simple and direct but not antagonistic: "Leave me alone." "Back off." "That wasn't nice."
Role-play "what if" scenarios: Role-playing is a terrific way to build confidence and empower your child to deal with challenges. You can role-play the bully while your child practices different responses until they feel confident handling troublesome situations. As you role-play, teach your child to speak in a strong, firm voice.
Report repeated, severe bullying: If your child is reluctant to report the bullying, go with them to talk to a teacher, guidance counselor, principal, or school administrator. Learn about the school's policy on bullying, document instances of bullying and keep records, and stay on top of the situation by following up with the school to see what actions are being taken.
Encourage your child to be an upstander: Being an upstander (and not a passive bystander) means a child takes positive action when they see a friend or another student being bullied. Ask your child how it feels to have someone stand up for them, and share how one person can make a difference.
Partner with your child's school: Communicate with your child's school and report bullying incidents. "You can't expect the school staff to know everything that's going on. Make them aware of any situations," Kaplan says. Though more schools are implementing bullying prevention programs, many still don't have enough support or resources.
Contact the offender's parents:
Teach coping skills: If your child is being bullied, remind them that it's not their fault, they are not alone, and you are there to help. It's important for kids to be able to identify their feelings and know that you want to hear about them so they can communicate what's going on. So practice and be a role model. Talk about your feelings and help them identify their feelings in everyday situations.
Praise progress: When your child tells you how they defused a harasser, let them know that you're proud of them. If you witness another child standing up to a bully in the park, point it out to your child so they can copy that approach. Above all, emphasize the idea that your own parent may have told you when you were a kid: If your child shows that they can't be bothered, a bully will usually move on.
Keep an open line of communication: Check in with your kids daily about how things are going at school. Use a calm, friendly tone and create a nurturing climate so they aren't afraid to tell you if something's wrong. Emphasize that their safety and well-being are important and that they should always talk to an adult about any problems, even problems that they think are "small" ones.
Build your child's confidence: The better your child feels about themselves, the less likely the bullying will affect their self-esteem. Encourage hobbies, extracurricular activities, and social situations that bring out the best in your child. Tell your child the unique qualities you love about them and reinforce positive behaviors that you'd like to see more.