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How to Teach Your Kids to Stand Up to Bullies at School and Online

Are you worried about your child being bullied in school or online? You aren't alone. Parents always worry about their children when they are away from us. With so many threats to our children out there, it is important to be informed about bullying, and what you can do to help your teen.

Bullying in schools has decreased since 2005, when this data first started being collected by the National Bullying Prevention Center, but rates of bullying are still high, with about 1 in 5 students reporting incidents of bullying nationwide.

One out of every five (20.2%) students report being bullied. (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019 )
A higher percentage of male than of female students report being physically bullied (6% vs. 4%), whereas a higher percentage of female than of male students reported being the subjects of rumors (18% vs. 9%) and being excluded from activities on purpose (7% vs. 4%). (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019)
41% of students who reported being bullied at school indicated that they think the bullying would happen again. (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019 )
Of those students who reported being bullied, 13% were made fun of, called names, or insulted; 13% were the subject of rumors; 5% were pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on; and 5% were excluded from activities on purpose. (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019)
A slightly higher portion of female than of male students report being bullied at school (24% vs. 17%). (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019)
Bullied students reported that bullying occurred in the following places: the hallway or stairwell at school (43%), inside the classroom (42%), in the cafeteria (27%), outside on school grounds (22%), online or by text (15%), in the bathroom or locker room (12%), and on the school bus (8%). (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019)
46% of bullied students report notifying an adult at school about the incident. (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019)
School-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25%. (McCallion & Feder, 2013)
The reasons for being bullied reported most often by students include physical appearance, race/ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation. (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019)
The federal government began collecting data on school bullying in 2005, when the prevalence of bullying was around 28 percent. (U.S. Department of Education, 2015 )

Although many students report incidents of bullying to teachers or other adults, they still fear that bullying will continue. So, as parents, we need to teach our kids at home what to do if bullying is occurring at school or online.

If you want to learn more about online bullying, I have written about this topic before: Why Saying No and Setting Boundaries are Important for Kids

Teaching Kids About Bullying

First and foremost, it is important to teach your kids not to be bullies themselves. This involves teaching them about empathy and kindness. We want our kids to treat other people how they would want to be treated.

Obviously, we don't want to think that it is our kid that is going to be the bully. We want to believe that we have raised kind humans.

To that end, it is also important to teach our kids to stand up against bullies, whether they are the one being bullied, or it is someone else.

According to Psychology Today, there are seven ways that we can teach our children to stand up to bullies:

  1. Stay connected

  2. Create Awareness

  3. Redefine Tattling

  4. Act Quickly

  5. Respond Assertively

  6. Use Simple, Unemotional Language

  7. Use Body Language to Reinforce Words

It is important for kids to know that they aren't alone. Bullying preys on the fears of children by cutting the child being bullied off from support. That is why speaking up is so critical. If your child sees someone being bullied and speaks up for that child, then the victim and the bully will both know that the victim is not alone. This makes them less of an 'easy target.'

By speaking up assertively in the moment, your child lets the bully know that these actions should not continue. Also, there is strength in numbers. If your child speaks up against bullying, their friends may do so as well.

Psychology Today continues:

The longer a bully has power over a victim, the stronger the hold becomes. Oftentimes, bullying begins in a relatively mild form—name-calling, teasing, or minor physical aggression. After the bully has tested the waters and confirmed that a victim is not going to tell and adult and stand up for his rights, the aggression worsens. Teach your child that taking action against the bully—and taking it sooner rather than later—is the best way to gain and retain power.

Let your child know that they should come to you, or an adult at school, right away if they witness bullying. That way, adults can intervene on behalf of the victim as well. This creates an even stronger support system for the child being bullied.

The more you talk to your child about bullying, the more prepared they will be if it takes place at their school, or if they witness bullying online. You can give them examples of what they should say in an instance of bullying, and have them roleplay scenarios with you.

Once you have talked to your child, you can ask them to talk to their friends too. This way, your child's friends can present a united front against any instances of bullying that they may be involved in.

Being prepared in case of eventualities of bullying can help your child to feel more confident that they will be able to safely stand up to a bully when these situations do occur.

Be sure to always leave an open door for your child to come and talk to you without feeling like they are being judged for what has happened. It is extremely important for your child to feel safe coming to you and expressing things without fear of your displeasure at them.

Plan Ahead What to Say

If your child knows ahead of time what they will say or do in the event that they, or someone else, is being bullied it will help them to act more quickly without escalating the situation.

According to Psychology Today,

Most school-based bullying prevention programs tell students to show kindness and empathy by standing up for kids who are bullied—which is spot-on advice! We know that when kids step in to stop bullying, the incident of cruelty stops within 10 seconds more than 50 percent of the time (Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001). Unfortunately, too few programs teach kids how to stand up for others!

Sometimes, bullying can go on for months or years if unchecked. Being able to stop an incidence of bullying in 10 seconds is amazing! And yet, the research bears this out.

This is why it is so important to be able to go through these scenarios with your child ahead of time.

In a class that I took at work about Unconscious Bias Mitigation, our instructor told us that if someone makes a statement that is racist, for example, you can say something as simple as "ouch."

This lets the person know that what they have said was hurtful, and calls them out on it in front of the group. That gives a clear message that what was said wasn't ok, without saying something negative in return to a hurtful statement from a bully.

Psychology Today gives examples of other simple statements that can be used if a child witnesses bullying:

Cut it out, dude—that’s not cool.
Hey, that’s over the line.
The key is in letting kids brainstorm their own simple statements so that their language feels comfortable and natural to them. Then, adults can help kids role-play saying their assertive words in a confident, casual voice.

As you can see from these examples, your child need not go into a long speech to stop bullying. I simple, assertive statement can make all the difference in the world.

Allowing your child to think about what they would say ahead of time, and to practice with you will give them the confidence that they need to be able to step up and stop bullying in its tracks.

Have you talked to your child about bullying? What did you say? Let me know in the comments!

Picture of a child being bullied with text that reads, "How to teach your kids to stand up to bullies in school and online."
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