8 Steps to Helping Children that have Been Bullied
Bullying isn’t just about hitting. It can be verbal mistreatment, intentional exclusion or manipulation. Sometimes people that feel like they are not “good enough,” say and do hurtful things. They feel like they are “less than” so they act out because they don’t know how to express what they are feeling in a mature way. These hurtful comments are a way for the person who is saying them to feel better about themselves. They send the message that the other person is “less than” because they are different.
Sometimes the comments are as simple as calling names or describing someone as fat, ugly, or smelly. Young children do not have prejudices however, they are very curious and have a desire to be grown up. Therefore, they make innocent comments (he is dirty), ask questions (what is wrong with that person’s leg?) or mimic what they hear adults say (you are smelly!). While these comments may seem hurtful, they can be just a part of learning how to use language.
What we can do when we think our children have been bullied:
- Helping them feel heard and process their emotions. Find out how they feel about it and how they handled it:
- Ask: “How did that make you feel?”
- Repeat it back: “mad, sad, curious…”
- Ask: “Do you believe that?” or “Do you think it is okay if people push or mistreat others?”
- Repeat it back: “So, you think you are smelly” or “You think it is okay if the group doesn’t include you, and it made you feel mad.”
- Show empathy: “Wow, that must have been hard to; have someone call you that in front of your friends, or deal with being left out!”
- Ask: “What did you do or say?”
- Repeat it back: “So, you…”
- Ask: “Do you think that was an appropriate/mature/kind way to handle it?”
If your child believes that the comment is true (fat, smelly, etc.) and/or that they didn’t handle it very well then you can use the “How to Guide Children to Solve Their Own Problems” process that you learned in class.
- Explaining to them that people say hurtful things or mistreat others because they are hurting inside or are unhappy. Let them know that they do not have to believe these hurtful comments or allow others to mistreat them.
- Modeling appropriate, kind and mature behavior when people make hurtful comments or mistreat you. Our children count on us to show them mature behavior by creating boundaries (Enforceable Statements) and to be loving (Empathy) at all times.
- Equip them with appropriate, kind and/or humorous responses:
- “How sad, that you see it that way.”
- “Thanks for noticing!”
- “Yes, my ears are large just like my dads.”
This will equip your child to handle difficult situations and give them the self confidence they will need throughout their lives.