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Home / Counselor’s Corner: Teaching Our Children Not to Bully

Counselor’s Corner: Teaching Our Children Not to Bully

Let’s stop saying and let’s start doing.

Parents, one of our number one fears is that someone will hurt our kids. Will they bruise their self-esteem or even their eyes? Will our kids be called names or made to feel inferior? The answer unfortunately is yes. To all of these? No not so much. However, our kids will be hurt.

I witnessed in horror as my spunky but friendly three year old ran up to an older kid this summer at the library. He had a book in hand and tried to show the little girl how excited he was about checking it out. She seemed very interested…at first. Suddenly something changed. I saw it in her eyes first (I think it is because I am a therapist) there was annoyance. Then anger. Then she spoke. She yelled very loudly to my son “You are stupid!!” He looked heart broken. He walked over to me and said “Mom she told me to stop it but she yelled that is not nice right?” I sighed with relief. No one had ever called him stupid before and so he did not know what that meant so he inferred that she was telling him to stop it. I was grateful that I did not have to address that he was bright and not at all stupid.

However he was called that so…is this little girl the devil? No. Is she a mean girl in training? No. She is a small kid who was newly five years old. Her grandmother promptly told her to come to her and they had a talk. We all are doing the best we can. But you might be saying…hey Tara your son got bullied-what are you going to do? Well I am not sure that this one instance encompasses major bullying but something triggered this young lady. Who knows her story? Maybe she did not like the photos of super heroes on the book? It is possible that she was hungry or tired…It is not my job to be judgmental of others kids but to teach my own child the best that I can teach him and inform him.

I knelt down on his level and said “You are correct. Yelling in the library is not good at all but I think her grandmother is talking to her about it” and I motioned over so that my son could see this process.

October is Anti-Bullying Awareness Month. Being aware does not only mean being aware of other kids being “mean” to our own kids but being aware of how our kids interact with others too. I have found that focusing on pro-social behaviors can be very helpful. The other day my own son threw a ball in frustration in his large motor room it inadvertently hit a boy playing on the slide. Should I just say “oh well that was an accident?” I guess I could but my son might miss an important lesson. Even if it was not his intention to hit someone with the ball…he did. A sorry would be helpful. He also should work through frustration in ways that don’t involve him throwing toys even if it is a ball because there is a greater chance that it might land in the wrong place if he is not in control of his emotions. Now keep in mind he is a new four year old now but this is a good time to start these lessons on responsibility, emotional regulation and empathy. If I start as early as four I am hoping that he really gets it by fourteen.

Preventing bullying behaviors in your child

  • Set a good personal example with how you deal with conflict
  • Teach your kids about empathy through books, media and other resources
  • Educate your child on historical instances of bullying…Holocaust, slavery, etc.,
  • Talk to your kids about friendship…why is it important and what is their role as a friend
  • Ask them about their feelings when peers are bullied
  • Set up a plan to handle their own frustration so they don’t lash out at others

What are you doing with your child to help them to understand kindness, empathy and to identify their own potential for bullying behaviors?

Tara Michener
Author: Tara Michener