Educator Paulette Chaffee Explains How to Support a Child Dealing with a Bully

Paulette Chaffee

Dealing with a bully in school can diminish any positive experience that education can offer to students. Paulette Chaffee, educator and speech therapist, points out that frequent encounters with a bully can damage a child’s emotional development and bring physical, verbal, or psychological harm.

Parents who have a child dealing with a bully can often feel helpless. Chaffee provides this advice for parents when helping their child handle a bully:

1. Offer a Listening Ear

Offer a Listening Ear

One of the first and most significant ways a parent can assist a child in handling a bully is to provide a listening ear. Acting as a non-opinionated and neutral sounding board allows for feelings and emotions to be communicated and discussed. A parent that reacts with too much force or feedback can cause a child to withdraw from the conversation suddenly.

In addition to a listening ear, one of the best questions a parent can ask a child in this situation is, “What can I do to be helpful?” This question gives a child authority to communicate what they need at that moment from a parent. It also challenges a child to think with awareness about what they need most during a tough time.

2. Brainstorm Proactive Responses

Brainstorm Proactive Responses

Bullies intentionally push personal buttons to provoke adverse reactions, which is another area where parents can play a valuable role. Sitting with a child and brainstorming positive and proactive responses can help a child think before reacting. In addition, creating a list of the best answers gives a child tools to use for practicing on their own how to respond to a bully. Examples of phrases that avoid aggravating a bully include: “That was not nice,” “Go away,” “Leave me alone,” “Let me be,” and “Back off.”

A child can also separate themselves from a bully with a calm, nonchalant response such as, “Yeah, whatever,” and immediately walk away. Disarming any run-ins with a bully with humor is another approach to consider.

3. Boost a Confidence

Boost a Confidence

A bully can make a child feel small. Parents can help elevate self-confidence in their children by praising positive reactions and doing the right thing, such as openly communicating and seeking mentorship about a bully situation. By focusing more on the positive, parents are more likely to help reinforce good behaviors in their children. Encouraging children to spend time with their interests and hobbies can also help boost a child’s confidence.

4. Separate Personal from Parent Role

Separate Personal from Parent Role

Coming into contact with a bully is not a rare scenario, as most people experience a bully at some point in their life. If a parent remembers when they were bullied in school, it is okay to share personal experiences to connect to a child, but the line should stop there. A parent is no longer productively assisting a child by making a child’s similar situation personal. The best support that a parent can offer is letting go of personal emotions towards bullying before providing help. It is not up to the parent to solve a child’s problem or always come to rescue a child from valuable life lessons.

About Paulette Chaffee

Paulette Chaffee is an educator, children’s advocate, grants facilitator, lawyer, and member of various non-profit boards. She obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Redlands in Communicative Disorders and a California Lifetime Teaching Credential. She is currently a board member of All the Arts for All the Kids.


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