This is part of a three-part guest series discussing how parents can work with kids to resolve bullying issues. If you haven't yet, read Part 1 and then go on to Part 3.
I am both a mum (of 3 small children) and an anti-bullying specialist. Two years ago, my son was targeted in a bullying situation, and then later that year joined in on some harsh behaviours of his peers (cue my pink cheeks!). This was hard for me too. The reason? Bullying creates feelings of shame. Shame, makes us quiet. But we have to move beyond shame in order to resolve bullying.
Step One was set up a conversation. If you missed it, read the blog from yesterday to get some ideas of how to do that. Ok, let's assume you’ve done that and you've discovered that bullying is an issue. They might be:
- Watching bullying and doing nothing about it.
- Getting targeted.
- Targeting someone else.
Don’t get scared, and don’t feel ashamed. It's important you maintain a dialogue and learn more about the situation, only by understanding the deeper issues will you get to solutions.
Here are 3 things you can do to dig deeper and start resolving the issue and 2 things to avoid:
1. Stay Empathic
That’s a fancy word for, show you hear and understand their emotions non-judgmentally, and you see their side of the story, without over-reacting so communication can continue with your child.
2. Ask Curious Questions.
This means listening and following up in a genuine way. Curious questions keeps your child’s stress hormone low, because they are being respected and listened to. Try:
“Tell me more…”
“Oh… interesting… can you explain _______ a bit more?
3. Ask questions that help them think and process.
We want to follow up with questions that help you child think a littler deeper about the situation - either building empathy if they’re joining in bullying or understanding their emotions and help them process if they’ve been the target. Ask them about how they and others feel, think, look and behave in the situation. I’ve added some questions at the bottom of the blog to get you started.
1. Don’t solve the problem for them
Try to avoid telling your kids what they should do. If our young people come up with their own solutions, they are more likely to take them than our suggestions. We’ll spend more time tomorrow on how to resolve the problem.
2. Don’t do things that won’t help your child learn.
Skill building does not come from:
- Punishments like grounding or suspensions.
- Long-winded lectures.
- Swooping into school and demanding our child remains safe.
- Telling our children the words and actions they should take.
It comes from caring, thoughtful, curious conversations with our kids that build greater empathy and resolve deeper underlying issues.
What I know – from 10 years of working with young people who bully, and those who do the bullying is this: Every child is wonderful.
Tomorrow we’ll focus on how you can approach solving the problem in a different way.
About the Author
Kathleen Hilchey is a mum of 3, a teacher, and an anti-bullying specialist. She works with families and adults to untangle these toxic relationships, and teaches her insights and methods to parents, schools, community groups, and workplaces. Her coaching methods include teaching better conflict management skills to her clients, and, co-creating a solution to the problem. This unconventional approach to bullying turns the "punishment" response on it's head - allowing for quick and lasting resolution to this complex problem. Get in touch with Kathleen on instagram @kathleen.hilchey.antibullying or www.kathleenhilchey.com
Questions to help dive deeper:
Help them build empathy if they are bullying or joining in:
- What emotions might the other kid be feeling?
- What does their face look like when you’re speaking to them?
- What does their body look like?
- How do you feel when you see that they are scared/hurt/angry/sad?
Allowing emotions out for children who are being bullied:
- How do you feel when you enter the classroom/school yard/bathroom?
- What are you thinking when this bullying is happening?
- What are you feeling when this bullying is happening?
- Are there people/places that you can go to for safety?