How to Raise Kids to Know How to Handle Bullies

Don’t let your silence teach your kids complacency when it comes to bullying.

Posted Aug 21, 2020

Thanks to Maggie Kimberl for today's guest blog post.

Bullying is a serious problem that parents don’t often know how to handle. To be sure, the way it was handled in days gone by doesn’t necessarily apply to this day and age, especially when so much bullying takes place online instead of in the schoolyard.

In the United States in the last year, one in five students reported being bullied. What’s more, instances of bullying increase when the victim is a person of color, has a disability, or is a member of the LGBTQ community.

Teaching kids to stand up to bullies goes beyond teaching them to be kind. As parents, we have to teach kids the problem-solving skills they will need to identify the severity of a problem and modulate an appropriate response.

Bullying and Biases Often Go Hand in Hand

Though White and Black students experience the same level of bullying, White students make up 53% of students and Black students make up 14% of students. This means that per capita Black students are experiencing bullying on a much more frequent basis, and children of other races are also often experiencing bullying at considerably higher rates than White students.

LGBTQ students are also experiencing a lot of bullying. Six in ten say they feel unsafe at school, and one in three missed at least one day of school in the last month because of bullying.

In addition, as many as one in every three special education students experience bullying.

What’s more, many students report being scolded when they report bullying.

Bullying Has Serious Consequences

Bullying disrupts learning and prevents students from forming healthy relationships with their peers. In severe cases, it can even lead to suicide attempts. Bullied students attempt suicide 2.6 times more often than students who have never been bullied.

Students who are bullied have higher instances of depression, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, lower academic achievement, and more. Students who experience bullying based on biases of race, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental abilities, and more have even more severe instances of these difficulties.

Training Children to Speak Up and Speak Out

Children, especially girls, are taught to go along to get along and to not rock the boat. One of the greatest skills we can teach children is that they can say no. Never force a child to hug a relative or play with someone they think is mean. Allow them to make decisions about who and how they will interact within a framework of rules meant to keep them safe.

Coach kids to identify their feelings. This starts when they are little by helping them learn the names to their feelings. It may seem like an overly dramatic thing to do, especially if you were raised to ignore your own emotions, but it is a major step toward raising kids who are emotionally mature.

Next, take stock of how your child interacts with others. Is your child passive? Aggressive? Teach your child to be assertive and to speak up for themselves and for others when necessary.

Part of this is helping your child understand when someone needs a friend or an ally. Teach them that when they see someone being bullied that it is ok to intervene. They need to understand the severity of the problem to know how to do this.

Teach kids to recognize the severity of everyday problems. Did the internet go out? That’s a hiccup. Is there a fire? That requires an adult to help. Every type of problem between these two examples has its own level of necessary response.

Ending Bullying Takes a Village

As parents, we all have to do our part to prevent bullying. Raising emotionally mature kids goes a long way, but we also have to train those kids to speak out when they see bullying taking place. Giving our kids the tools they need to prevent bullying can lead to a better world for everyone. 

Learn more about raising strong children here.