What Can Parents Do About Bullying?

When we parents offer our children out to the wider world, we hope that wonderful experiences and people await them. But that isn’t always the case, of course. We can be dismayed to find our children involved in bullying—either as the perpetrator or on the receiving end.

As a developmental psychologist who has studied school-based bullying, I have counseled many families experiencing bullying, and I know it is not easy. We cannot completely control what difficulties our children will face in the world, but we can exert some influence over the paths they take and how they will respond to the people and events they encounter. When it comes to peer bullying, parents can help in a number of ways.

To maximize the chance they will avoid bullying situations in the first place, we can nurture children’s emotional and interpersonal skills, and support their positive peer relationships. If bullying does happen, we can stand up for their protection and insist on swift action on the part of the responsible adults.

How to reduce the risk of bullying for your child

Research suggests that parenting practices may make a difference in whether children become aggressive, bullied, and victimized—or not. Your family relationships help to build children’s expectations about how relationships should feel, what helps relationships to work well, and how to constructively manage the problems that arise in relationships.

Use an authoritative parenting style. An authoritative style of parenting offers a high degree of warmth, love, and closeness, and at the same time provides clear limits and high expectations with the support necessary to meet those expectations. Children who are raised with authoritative parenting (compared to other styles) fare the best—with better mental health, stronger relationship skills, and higher achievement. In contrast, children who experience harsh parenting practices fare worse, and they’re more likely to become a bully or become the focus of bullying.

Greater Good Magazine. “What Can Parents Do About Bullying?.” Divecha, Diana, 06 November 2019. <https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_can_parents_do_about_bullying>.

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