Bullying has become a big problem … and it’s all over the place. From school to the workplace to city transportation, people have seemingly just gotten mean.
But when is the best time to start teaching your kids about bullying? And, at what age does bullying really start?
It’s hard to say because kids grow at different rates emotionally, so while a child might be in Kindergarten, emotionally he or she might only be 4. Or vice versa, a kiddo that’s 4 may very well be more emotionally mature.
So where does that leave us?
It means teaching our kids to express themselves at the earliest opportunity. And let them know it’s okay to say out loud that they’re angry, afraid, sad, glad, happy … it’s important they understand that it’s okay to express all emotions, not just the good ones.
Teach you children that all emotions are normal, but that it becomes unhealthy and destructive when they take those emotions out on other people.
One of the best ways to teach this is to model it. Be respectful to everyone in the house, even when you’re angry.
Show kindness and respect towards others, even if you don’t know them. This can be taught through simple gestures, such as holding a door open for the person behind you, or larger projects such as donating old clothing to a shelter.
But what happens if your child is the bully? How do you fix it? The sooner the better. Sometimes it can be hard to admit that your child is being a bully.
The most important this is that you redirect the behavior, give your child consequences that you stick to, and make sure they understand that bullying is never acceptable.
In our house we do what’s called a “do-over.” Ella, nearly three, first must have quiet time, but then gets the opportunity to approach the situation using “big girl words and actions.” Nine times out of ten, this works.
When it doesn’t, it’s our job to follow through with punishment such as limiting bedtime stories to only one or taking away a sticker from her good behavior chart.
And what if your child is being bullied? Make sure you keep the lines of communication open so your child knows they can come and talk to you.
Let your kiddo know that it’s not their fault and depending on the age of your child and the severity of the bullying, it may be appropriate to speak to the other parent or approach the school. I had to do this when our oldest was in sixth grade and had girls telling her to go kill herself.
At the time, she was mortified and some of the kids made fun of her for having her mom “fix it,” but my daughter knows I’ve always got her back, no matter what.