Tips for Parents: Bullying - How to Support Your Child
McGoey, K.
Davidson Institute for Talent Development

This Tips for Parents article is from a seminar hosted by Kara McGoey, who provides advice on the prevention of bullying, as well as tips on how to handle the subject.

Bullying Basics

Typical, playful teasing is enjoyed by both parties. Kids may joke and laugh at each other but both find it funny and participate.

Teasing is name-calling or taunting that is not meant to be hurtful but is not appreciated by the recipient. It can be the same as playful teasing but one party does not find it funny. Most teasing can be handled by kids telling the other kid to stop.

Bullying is hurtful and intentional. There is often an imbalance of power in bullying where the bully has some power over the victim. The power can be physical, emotional or to get attention of others. Bullying is often repetitive but not always. The victim often feels helpless.

It is very hard to define the difference and it is often in the eye of the beholder. An adult may think it was harmless but the child may be VERY hurt. We need to remember to take the perspective of the child.

Some adults believe that bullying is just part of growing up. Unfortunately that is true but we have now learned the terrible, detrimental effects that bullying can have on children. We as adults need to change the pattern of typical behavior to make bullying unacceptable.


  1. Encourage adults to create a safe comfortable climate for all kids. Schools should have ano tolerance policy for bullying. Children should feel safe to report bullying.

  2. Help children build skills for resilience. Teach children to ask bullies to stop, and then walk away. If that does not help that should get an adult for help.

  3. Teach children to contain their reactions to bullies. Bullies thrive on power. If the bully is trying to get the victim upset and the victim remains calm then the bully might be diffused.

  4. Encourage children to not be a passive bystander. Children should feel empowered to protect others and get an adult when bullying is occuring.

  5. Provide structure during social activities. Bullying is more likely to happen in unstructured social time (outside paly, lunch time, neighborhood). Adults can provide structure by creating games or activities that have clearly defined rules and provide superision.

  6. Teachers may want to provide structure during social time at school too. Cooperative learning groups are wonderful for the learning process but can be times where bullies prey on victims. There are many structured approaches to cooperative learning that can help guide the interactions. One discussed during this seminar was the Kagan approach.

  7. Most of all, build a strong sense of confidence in your child. Remind them of their strengths. Create a list of all of their friends, people that love them and other positives in their life. Encourage them to review it often.

How to handle Bullying:

  1. Do not minimize your child’s experience. You might think that it does not sound that bad but your child’s perception may be different. Support your child and help them build strategies like the ones above.

  2. Talk to the other adults in the environment. Teachers, parents and older children may be able to work together to prevent the bullying. Do not be afraid to be assertive.

  3. Encourage your child to further enhance their true friendships. Use these friends as a buffer to the bullies. Enlist a friend to join your child on outings.

  4. It is OK to remove your whole family from situations that have produced bullying. However, remove the child from the situation during the crisis of the bullying episode but then work with the child to build strategies so that the child can re-enter the situation. We want to protect our children when in crisis but teach them how to navigate tough situations in the future when the crisis has passed.

  5. Allow your child an outlet for the anger or frustration that the bullies have caused. They may need to contain themselves during the act but they need an outlet for the anger later.

  6. Do not be afraid to seek professional help to support your child. Counselors can be a great resource to handle the emotional turmoil that can be created by bullies. A counselor can also give you specific strategies that will work for your situation.

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The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.

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