Buddy or bully — which would you rather have as a friend?
I am positive most kids would answer that they'd rather have a buddy than a bully to hang out with. Helping our children recognize kind or unkind behaviors might seem obvious to us as adults, but learning how to react if they or others are being bullied is an important exercise for your child too.
Talking with your child about bullying is an important step in making it clear what type of conduct is not okay, and that we all play a role in stomping it out. Here are four important points to make when speaking with your child about bullying. Also, don't miss the printable below with conversation prompts for you and your child on the subject.
1. Make a distinction between a buddy and a bully.
A bully can be defined as someone who uses their strength or influence to harm or intimidate others. Talk about the qualities of a buddy versus a bully. You might even like to write contrasting lists of behaviors and attitudes that distinguish the first from the second, for example: inviting someone to play and sharing a snack or toy versus hitting and calling names. Include behaviors related to wilfully harming others physically and verbally in your discussion, as well as social exclusion and manipulation.
2. Develop empathy for others.
Learning to understand and share the feelings of others is an important lesson for all children. One way that you can easily help your child understand empathy is through books, TV shows, and movies as they expose children to characters in a range of social situations and predicaments. Talk with your child about how a character might feel given the circumstance, and how your child could respond if she were in the same situation.
3. Discuss the importance of being an upstander.
An upstander is someone who acts or speaks up when they see something is wrong — like someone being bullied. An upstander stands up for what is right and does everything he can to support and help others. Stepping in or helping out is one of the most effective ways that kids can help put a stop to bullying, but it's hard to do, especially in front of friends. Often kids don't actually know how to help. Here are some ideas to encourage your child to stop bullying:
- Speak up. A simple, "That's not cool/funny. Let's get out of here," can encourage others to also take action.
- Tell an adult what's happening or go with someone being bullied to support him as he speaks up.
- Be a friend because a bully is less likely to pick on someone who is part of a group.
- Walk away to show the bully that what's happening is not okay.
4. Talk about the difference between being assertive and being aggressive.
Encourage your child to stand up for herself with firm, calm words. Take time to role-play a range of scenarios where your child might have to do just that, so that she'll already have a pre-rehearsed script readily available should she ever need it.
Having regular discussions with your child about bullying is important for the development of the desirable behaviors we want every child to uphold as a buddy and upstander. To help you initiate these discussions on a regular basis I have included a printable of conversation starters.
Each buddy or bully discussion prompt card includes one scenario or question to challenge your child to share his thoughts about the subject. Print them and cut them out, choosing one card at a time, and inviting your child to talk about his ideas. You might also like to share your own personal experiences related to each question.
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