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Don’t Wait to Talk to Your Child About Bullying

By Cultures Of Dignity | August 24, 2016

talk to your child about bullying

It’s back to school so parents are naturally preoccupied about getting everything ready. We run around filling out the right permission forms, buying all the things on the school supply list, and figuring out our child’s class schedule. But for our kids, all of those things are usually way down the list of priorities. Instead, much more important to them is their social lives. It is important to talk to your child about bullying.

Even kids who generally like school and have friends worry if their friendships changed over the summer. But for the kids who were bullied last school year, “back to school” is a time of dread. Will the kid who made them miserable last year continue tormenting them this year? Is any adult going to do anything about it? At what point should they tell a parent how desperately unhappy they are?

If you’re a parent it can be easy to miss this in the whirlwind that is back to school.

So should you wait to talk to your child about bullying until you have hard proof that there is a problem? Why talk about a problem if there isn’t a problem? Here’s the reality: while school is about learning English, Math, and History, it’s also a place where conflict occurs. Abuse of power occurs.  Bullying occurs.

This has been the case at every school where I’ve taught over the last twenty years.

It is also true that all schools have a mix of adults working within them. Some have the will, compassion, and skill to address bullying effectively. And some don’t. The unsettling reality is that your child may not want to tell you what’s going on.

So how do you approach your child about any of this? Here’s a suggestion of what to say to your child – the emotional prep to go along with all the new pencils and notebooks – taken in large part from Masterminds & Wingmen, my book about the social and emotional lives of boys.

Now that you’re about to start school, I want to talk to you about something that’s important to me. I don’t know if things have changed among your friends or if bullying is a problem at school, but sometimes people can be mean to each other. When a person puts someone else down based on what they look like, their race, religion, or where they come from, that goes against everything our family stands for. It doesn’t matter if people excuse it by saying they’re teasing. Everyone should be treated with dignity.

So if someone else is being treated that way, even if it’s someone you don’t know well or even like, I want you to do something to address it. That could mean backing up the target by saying it’s wrong. It could be pulling the target away from the people who are mean.

You know the situation best, so do whatever you think will be most effective to communicate to the bully that what they’re doing is wrong. It could also mean telling me or another adult you trust. If you do tell me, I’m not going to freak out and start yelling at people, but we will bring it to the attention of the right people so the problem can be addressed.

If it’s happening to you, the same rules apply and I hope you will trust me enough to tell me. I may not be able to make the problem go away immediately, but we will work together so you feel better.   

This article was written by Rosalind Wiseman.

Up next: what do you do if the problem gets worse and you need to report it to a teacher or school.