How to Talk to Kids about Bullying: New Tips for Parents

By Greg Howard

Photo of a parent talking to a teen about bullying.

Visit the CyberBully Hotline Resource Center for helpful bullying resources. Click the image to visit the Resource Center.

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune talks about a new development in the field of bullying prevention: the fact that kids are tuning out.

With bullying such a hot topic in the media, more parents are asking their kids about bullying, and many schools are pushing their students into assemblies on bullying prevention. According to experts in the field, many kids have simply had enough of the constant questioning and educational efforts. A memorable quote on the subject comes from Cynthia Lowen, the producer of the movie “The Bully Project.” She states that kids “are at the eye-rolling stage with bullying.”

So, how should parents talk to their kids about bullying these days? The experts quoted in the article offer some helpful guidelines for parents to follow.

  • Don’t just ask kids, “Are you being bullied?” Many of them will respond to this query by saying “no,” either because they see bullying as something that happens to younger kids, or because they don’t want their parents to be upset. Instead, listen closely to what your child is telling you about what’s happening at school, and focus on specific behaviors. Is someone spreading rumors about your child? Is someone calling them names? These kinds of things can fall under the umbrella of “bullying,” but your child may not recognize that.
  • Avoid pressing your kids too hard for information when they tell you about incidents at school. If kids are asked questions that sound accusatory, such as, “Why didn’t you tell the teacher?” or “Why didn’t you just stick up for yourself?” they are likely to stop talking to you. Instead, try to empathize with them and talk with them about potential solutions to the problem. Kids need to feel that you both are on the same side of the fence working on the problem together.
  • Don’t assume that your kids will come to you with their problems. Many kids, especially older ones, might be ashamed to admit they have problems. They may feel like a failure or that they are an embarrassment to the family. One expert quoted in the article noted that bullied kids she spoke to when writing a book on the subject “all reached a place of extreme crisis before they spoke up” to parents. Pay attention to what’s going on in your kids’ lives and talk to them when it seems like they’re struggling, even if they claim that they aren’t being bullied.

We hope that these ideas help you talk to your kids about about bullying.  Feel free to share this article with parents and friends who might benefit from it.

Click here to view the other resources available in our Bullying Resource Center.

Visit the Chicago Tribune article here:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/life/sc-fam-1127-teen-bully-20121127,0,1936239,print.story

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