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9 Steps to Fight Bullying

9 Steps to Fight Bullying

If your child is treated badly in daycare, at school, or summer camp, will he or she know to speak up? Will your child even be able to identify this behavior as wrong? Parents, let’s educate ourselves and equip our children so they’re able to stand up for themselves when necessary. 

1. Know what bullying is and its types.

You can’t understand what you don’t know. According to the American Psychological Association, “Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort.” Once you know what bullying is, make sure you understand each of the different types of bullying so you can identify if they are affecting your child.

Physical – using physical force (e.g. kicking, hitting)

Verbal – using words (e.g. put-downs, derogatory comments)

Social – using social tools (e.g. exclusion, gossip)

Cyber – bullying online or via technology 

2. Know the roles of bullying.

Knowing the roles someone can play in a bullying situation can help you and your child get on the same page with terminology.

Bully: the individual perpetrating the bullying

Target/victim: the individual being bullied

Bystander: individuals outside the bullying situation who witness (and don’t do anything)

Upstander: individuals outside the bullying situation who witness and take action to stop the bullying

3. Give kids space to talk and share

A sad fact of life today is that most kids have a story to share when it comes to bullying. According to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, more than one out of every five children report being bullied.

Giving kids space to share their experiences with bullying will allow you to respond and reflect on how you can – and then they – can change the situation. Make sure to set aside time for this talk; you’ll be surprised how much kids will open-up about this difficult subject if you don’t rush them or cut them off.

4. Provide tips or tools to stand up to bullies.

As an adult, you may already be aware of ways to encourage your kid to stand up to bullies, either as a victim or as an upstander. Sometimes, ignoring a bully or not letting them affect you will make the bullying less enjoyable. Another option is to work as a group to shut down a bully: it’s much easier to bully someone when they’re alone than engaging with friends. Work with your child to identify trusted adults in the space so that they can share what’s happening and feel safe.

5. Model positive engagement with others.

Our children are a reflection of us, both positive and negative. Make sure that you are modeling inclusive and positive engagement with others, especially around your children. Consider what you say about your own friends and family, and how that might translate to your child’s behavior towards individuals outside of your home. Conversely, invite your children into positive behavior opportunities. At a social event, you might take time to identify another child/adult looking lonely and invite your child to come with you to involve that person or cheer them up.

6. Explore how to turn bullying behavior around.

If 20% of kids are getting bullied, that means that there are many bullies out there. If you are concerned that your child is acting the bully – or are working to address something that’s been noted – you must think about two questions: How do I address the behavior? And, How do I address the cause of the behavior? The root cause of bullying can often be insecurity, so investigate to determine what insecurities are driving your child to overcompensate, and work to resolve them. 

7. Take advantage of anti-bullying resources.

There are lots of great online resources to combat bullying. Help your kids to learn from the example of Jaylen Arnold, a bullied kid who started his own anti-bullying organization, Jaylen’s Challenge. Tap into your local library and school districts for additional free resources and guidance.

8. Reach out for help.

In some situations, you may need help to address bullying, especially if your child acts as bully or target. Luckily most schools have experience dealing with bullying and have both resources and people with understanding you can draw on. If these resources don’t help, you might need the expertise of a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor to address either the impacts of bullying or the reasons behind it. 

9. Get kids involved in fighting bullying!

Empower your kids to stand up to bullying, not only in their own classrooms, but across the school! Think about bigger picture ideas that would help make their school or your community a bully-free space. Not only will this spark greater awareness and understanding of bullying, it will give students the intrinsic power they need to stand up to bullies in any situation.

Jan Helson, co-founder and board chair of Global Game Changers Children’s Education Initiative, Inc. For more information or to get involved, visit

Letter from a parent in distress (Anonymous) 

Recently my 8-year-old said about one of the boys from school, “I don’t really like him. He has always been really mean to me.” That surprised me. Kids can be mean occasionally – no surprise there. But the word “always” really confused me. When I asked for more details, she opened up about this little boy from her grade who has been pushing her and laughing at her, more in the past than now. What?! When was this happening? Her answer left me speechless: that was when she was 3 years old, in preschool. Naturally, the next questions were, “Why didn’t I know about this? Did you tell the teacher? What did the teacher do about this?” Her answer floored me: “I didn’t know any better.” She didn’t tell the teacher. She didn’t tell the parents. She didn’t know any better. 5 years later, she still feels like a victim of bullying, her wounds still fresh. And she even feels a certain level of shame for not knowing to act upon it. Y’all, she was THREE! I didn’t know to educate my 3-year-old about bullying. Apparently, that is not too early.

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