Talk To Your Kid About Bullying: 7 Conversation Killers To Avoid

Parents are often the last ones to know that their children are being bullied.  A kid who’s being chronically teased, picked-on, harassed or beat up carries a lot of shame inside, and being silent often seems easier than the alternative.  After all, telling a parent carries the risk that:

  • you might be disappointed, judgmental or get hysterical
  • you will make a fuss at school, making the situation worse (and drawing retaliation)
  • they will be labeled as a tattle tale or a rat

If you even suspect that your child is being bullied (threatened, pushed-around, shunned), talking to your son or daughter is the first step toward learning the truth.  Before you can formulate a strategy to help them, you need to find out the nature and scope of the problem.

When a kid does admit they’re being bullied, you have the opportunity to take positive action.  But take care- you might blow it with one misstep.

These are seven common mistakes that anyone can make.  When you know what to look for, you can avoid these common pit falls.

  • Being distracted, getting interrupted. The TV doesn’t need to provide back ground noise.  Make sure cell phones and blackberries are off (yours and theirs).
  • Wrong Environment.  Sensitive conversations should be carried out in a place where no one else is listening – and away from other siblings.
  • Making faces, Getting loud.  If your face twists up and broadcasts distress or anger, your kid will clam up.  If you get loud, they’ll become silent.
  • Rushing.  If your child’s conversation starts to wander (and it probably will), get back on track by asking, “what happened next”, or “let’s focus – what about XYZ?”. Avoid saying, “Hustle up” or “Get to the point”.
  • Meaningless Reassurances. “Don’t worry, everything will be fine”, “Things happen for a reason”, “This will work itself out”, etc.  It’s 1,000 times better to say nothing than to throw poison down the well with these hollow cliches.
  • Interrupting. When your kid talks, just listen.  Do NOT jump in with corrections or contradictions.  Do not finish their sentences for them.  Do not talk over them. 1) its rude 2) it models bad conversational skills 3) it prevents you from learning anything.  A good rule of thumb is to wait until the other person finishes,  and count two breaths before you speak.
  • Being Dismissive. Examples include: “Tough it out”, “You’re being way too sensitive”, and “Come on,  that’s nothing”.  Do this and your kid wont talk to you about anything important.
Avoid these 7 conversation killers and you’ll  not only forge a better relationship with your child, you’ll be well on the way to helping them solve their bullying problems.

Even if you don’t have “the conversation”, you can successfully open the door by saying this:

“We know that school can be tough, and sometimes kids are thoughtless and even downright mean. If anything comes up, I hope you talk to us. We’re always here to listen, and there’s a chance we might have something to offer.”

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