Help, My Child Came Home From School and Says She Is Being Bullied!

Your response, as a parent, is very important when your child comes home and says he or she is being bullied at school. Here is my best advice to help you.

What do I do?

It is a horrible and helpless feeling when your child comes home from school and tells you they are being bullied by a classmate. Feelings of frustration, anger and helplessness overwhelm us. I mean, it’s our job to protect our kids, right? We send them to school and expect them to be safe!

As parents, our immediate reaction is to STOP what is going on, protect our kids and FIX the problem for our child. So what do we do? We get in the car and drive as fast as we can down to the principal’s office at the school. We storm into the school office and demand to speak with the principal!

Is that the right answer?

There are two immediate problems with that. The first is that you put the principal and the school administration on the defensive. Their immediate reaction will to be to defend their school, teachers and their job. The second is that you just modeled to your child, the wrong way to handle this problem.

Your reaction is important!

Your reaction to your child sets the tone for their ability to resolve the situation they are in and any future similar situations. Remember, the end goal is to resolve the problem.
•    Remain calm; ask your child what happened.
•    Acknowledge their feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, sadness or frustration.
•    Be careful about your choice of words. The word “bully” has become a buzz word somewhat. Many times kids and adults are using the word "bullying” when in actuality it is typical, age-appropriate conflict.

Here is my advice:
•        Ask your child a lot of questions. Try to understand what and why the “bully” did what they did. Were they hurt, scared or did they feel left out? Perhaps the “bully” was only thinking of their own needs, rather than thinking of how their actions would make your child feel.
•        Things can be interpreted in many different ways, especially online. Walk your child through the particular “bullying” event or situation, talk about how each person who was present probably felt and how that affected their actions. By doing this, you will give your child the gift of “understanding” and problem solving.
•        How your child responds matters. Fighting fire with fire only escalates the problem. If we fight back using nasty behavior and words, we are now are doing exactly what we don’t want the bully to do to us. Teach your child that if she wants to resolve a conflict, she has to use positive, kind words and actions.
•        Most kids (or adults) are not “bad” people, they just  ”behave badly.” People who behave badly are looking for attention. Sometimes, your child can get rid of bad feelings with another by responding with kindness and smiles.
•        When someone is our friend or in our group of friends, sometimes we forget the most basic thing: telling them how their words or actions make us feel.  Sometimes all we have to do is tell them to stop. Have your child practice what they could say.
•        Teach your child how to make a plan of what to do “before” something happens. For example, if your child is being excluded from the lunch table, have them call a friend the night before and plan to sit with them the next day. Another idea might be to plan to go to lunch study rather than to the cafeteria where they will be subject to those negative feelings. Empower your child to find a way to avoid a situation that will make them feel bad.
•        We can’t control how other people act. We can, however, control how we react. No matter what, there are always going to be mean people. It is important to empower your child by teaching them how to react or how to “move on” from a situation.
•        Most people don’t like to hear this, but there is a difference between bullying and conflict.  Disagreements or differences of opinion are NOT bullying. Help your child understand that just because you may not like what someone says, it doesn’t mean they are a bully.

Our job as parents is to “teach” our children how to navigate all types of situations.  When they become adults they are going to find bullies at work, in their neighborhood and in government.

If we don’t take the time to teach our kids how to handle mean, negative and hurtful behavior, how do we expect them to know what do or how to handle a situation when we are not there?

***These suggestions are not going to solve every conflict or bullying situation.  Sometimes you may have to get the school administration, the board of education or even the police involved.

– Jill Brown

The goal of this blog post is to continue to offer parents and educators the opportunity to understand what goes on in the online lives of children in this generation. It allows you to consider alternate viewpoints and reflect upon your own approach to raising your child. By no means are my thoughts and reflections the ONLY way to address these concerns.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Got Kids March 19, 2012 at 02:05 PM
J. Brown, Would you please provide what educational backround or professional training you have obtained that would lend to your credibility in this area. While I find the story informative, I question your qualifications as an authority on the subject matter and consider your blog here at the Patch as free advertising for your websites. Thank you in advance for providing any of the information I have requested. With all due respect, I am not interested in meeting with you at any local eating establishment to discuss this over lunch as you have offered others. A listing of your qualifications is fine.
NR9 March 19, 2012 at 02:33 PM
@Got Kids. Why does someone need a particular kind of educational background or professional training for what Jill Brown does? While such a background could probably be helpful, I don't see how it would be so critical. She is a parent of several children. I assume she has a college degree. What more does she “need” to practice what she does? She clearly has an interest in the subject matter such that she has spent significant time/effort learning more about it. Numerous organizations/schools have hired her to speak on this subject matter and they’ve paid her for her speaking engagements – this suggests that she must be good at it. Otherwise, her business would have gone bust long ago. Unless this has to do with something completely unrelated to her business, there is no reason for such bitterness towards her and certainly not by way of mass broadcast, over the internet, through Patch. (cont'd)
NR9 March 19, 2012 at 02:33 PM
(2 of 2) As for the allegation of "free advertising"... I don't know what to make of that one. I would agree with you completely that there DOES appear to be a significant element of “free advertising” in her blog. However, the same is true for MANY (maybe even most) of the other Patch blogs. It’s also common in MANY online and print publications. Someone with a particular expertise writes an article that could be helpful for others and then at the end, they get to post their company name. It seems like a good deal for both writer/advertiser and the website/publication. If you take issue with Jill’s blog, then you must with the others too. And, if Patch doesn’t see it as being “free advertising” (they seem to think of it as “free content” in exchange for “free advertising”) then why should you have a problem with it?
Susan Lund March 19, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Got Kids (or should I say Got no Guts to use their own name)- What are your qualifications to be a chronic Patch Poster ? Please list all of your qualifications as the public demands it.
Camilo H. Smith March 19, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Hi folks: Your passion for the topic of bullying goes without question. It would be great to see something more constructive and to the topic in these comments. Do you agree or disagree with any of the points mentioned in this post? Bullying is a serious issue and it plays out in many forms online as well as in the real world. I tip my hat to Jill for continuing to provide this service. If any of you would like to start a blog about a topic you are passionate about, with links to your websit,e you are all fully invited to do so. Thanks.


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