7 Surprising Things Parents Do Not Know About Bullying

Upset high school student

Bullying is in the news almost every day. As a result, most parents are well-educated about the issue. They talk to their kids about bullying and can identify the warning signs. There is even a large percentage of parents that keep tabs on what their kids are doing online.

But bullying is a complex issue that is continuously evolving. As a result, many parents are shocked to learn that their view of bullying is often incomplete. Here are the top things that parents often do not realize about bullying.

Sometimes It’s the Kids Your Child Calls 'Friends' Who Are the Meanest

When parents think of bullies, they often envision stereotypes of bullies, including the loner who hates the world or the mean girl that picks on those without as much social clout. Often the bully they imagine is far-removed from their child.

As a result, parents are often shocked to learn that the kids bullying their children are the ones they spend a lot of time—the ones they call friends. Be sure you are talking with your kids about what constitutes a healthy friendship and what respect looks like. Help your kids identify if the kids they call friends are truly friends.

Any Child Is Capable of Bullying and Mean Behavior

No parent wants to learn that their child is bullying another child. But you have to recognize that it is possible. Even kids from good homes can engage in bullying if they give in to peer pressure. They also may participate in bullying if they are trying to fit in or climb the social ladder.

Be sure you are talking to your kids about respectful behavior. And look for opportunities to impart empathy and increase social and emotional learning in their lives. If you do discover your child is bullying, take action right away. Implement appropriate discipline for the bullying behavior and monitor the situation to be sure it doesn’t happen again.

Not All Mean Behaviors Constitute Bullying

There has been so much information in the news about bullying, that the message has become diluted. Consequently, parents often label every unkind word or action as bullying. While these types of behaviors are never appropriate and just as hurtful, it is essential to distinguish between bullying behavior and unkind behavior. It’s also important to understand the difference between bullying and normal conflict.

Bullying consists of a power imbalance between the victim and the bully. It also is intentional and repeated. Name-calling, in particular, can be a confusing type of bullying. Calling a person a name one time does not constitute bullying, but calling a person a name every day or over a period of time is bullying. Be sure you have established that your child is truly experiencing bullying before you label it as such.

Kids Don’t Share as Much as You Think They Do

Even kids who are open with their parents often leave out details. The reasons for the lack of disclosure are varied. But, as a parent, you need to realize that when your child tells you about a bullying incident she experienced or one that she witnessed, she may leave out some details. Additionally, kids notoriously minimize what they are experiencing, especially if they think you will freak out.

Build trust with your child that promotes more sharing. For instance, allow your kids to have a say in how they want the situation handled. Also, don’t overreact to what they are telling you. Try to listen and gather information. And be sure to empathize with what they are experiencing even if you don’t understand it or feel that it’s not that big of a deal.

Teens Often Model What They See Others Doing

Begin by looking at yourself. Are you doing the very things you are telling your kids not to do? For example, are you gossiping with your friends about another mother? Are you making fun of another dad who needs to lose weight? Are you making fun of someone's child? If you are doing these things, your child will eventually do the same things.

Additionally, take a close look at your child’s friends. If their group looks like a clique, talk to your child about that. If you see girls in the group displaying mean behavior, try to help your child widen her circle of friends. And if you see the boys your son is friends with making inappropriate remarks about girls expand your son’s group of friends.

As much as you encourage your child to be a good person, to stand up for others, and to treat others with respect, it is tough for him to do that if the people he surrounds himself with are not behaving in the same way.

Most Kids Think of Bullying as “Drama” and Not Bullying

When most kids think about bullying, they imagine physical bullying. They often don’t consider the other forms of bullying as anything other than drama. It’s important for parents to remember this when talking with their kids. If your children are saying there is a lot of drama at school or that kids are messing with them, ask questions. Find out what they mean. Your definition of bullying and drama is likely very different from your child’s definition.

Kids Are Very Creative When It Comes to Bullying

Just when you think you have it all figured out, you will hear of new methods kids are using to target others. Be sure to read about bullying regularly and stay familiar with the apps kids are using. More and more apps are hitting the market that kids are utilizing for cyberbullying. Additionally, be sure your kids are talking to you before downloading new apps. Then, check them out together.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.