If you have any inkling that your son or daughter is bullying other kids, have a "that is not acceptable" conversation. Ask if your child is angry or frustrated about something. If you get a yes, spend alone-time together and talk about the problem and why he should feel good about himself. Enroll him in a class or sport he's good at. Do some role-playing: Have your child play the victim while you be the bully—it's a potent way to show why bullying is so horrible. Even bring in an older brother or sister to help brainstorm solutions.
At the same time, make it perfectly clear that there will be consequences if the bullying doesn't stop. What would I do? First, I'd make my child apologize in person or in writing, and I'd let the bullied kid's parents know I'm all over the situation. If I found my child was being mean through texting or online, I'd pull the plug on using that electronic device, probably for an extended period of time.
Also, spend some time at stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov. The site has good examples of anti-bullying programs all over the country. If you have a young child, you can watch webisodes together that explain why bullying is unacceptable. The Cartoon Network just announced it's planning a major anti-bullying campaign next fall aimed at middle-school "bystanders" who could help curtail bullying. If you need help, talk to your child's school counselor, teacher or, yes, your pediatrician. We're there to help.
How do you talk to your kids about bullying? Leave your comments below.
Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg—or Dr. Jen—is RealAge's pediatric expert and the author of The Smart Parent's Guide to Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents and Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children. Get more of her advice at RealAge.com.
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