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How To Stop Bullying
By Teaching Empathy Skills

Authored by William G. DeFoore, Ph.D.

Bullying has different effects on different people, depending on who you are and where you stand in relationship to the bully. You're interested in bullying for your own personal reasons, and you'll find exactly what you're looking for right here. 

So, click on one of the five questions below to get the answers you're looking for.  Just select the question that you want answered, and it will take you to your answers right here on this page. 

Is Your Child A Victim Of Bullying?

You might be totally sure your child is a victim, but some kids have a hard time talking about this kind of thing. Just in case, here are some signs that your child might be a victim of bullies:

  • You notice a sudden change in their behavior, such as...
  • They are quieter than usual
  • They seem depressed
  • They won't talk, or talk less than usual
  • They don't want to go to school (more than usual)
  • They mention to you that they "don't like" someone at school

Of course if your child comes right out and tells you about getting picked on at their school or in your neighborhood, then you know for sure. Just be sure you believe them!

Here are some questions to ask your child, if you're not sure:

  • "Is someone being mean to you?"
  • "Does it seem like some of the children don't like you?"
  • "Is one of the kids at school picking on you?"
  • "Do you feel safe at school?"

This is the time to stand up for your child, but how and when you do it makes all of the difference. This video shows some adults handling things very well...

Brave Adults Standing Up To Bullies

  1. Encourage your child with words like, "I'm glad you told me this is happening. I'm sorry you got hurt and scared. I'm going to help you with this, and we will figure something out. You're strong and smart, and I believe in you. You're going to be able to deal with this so that it doesn't keep on happening to you. I'll stick with you until the problem is solved."
  2. If your child seems too passive and lacks self-confidence, he may need to develop some healthy anger skills. This CD/audiobook program will help you to help him in coming up with the inner strength, confidence and healthy anger he needs in order to stand up for himself. When kids don't speak out and stand up for themselves, it can be an indication of depression and in extreme cases suicidal tendencies. If you think this may be a concern with your child, learn about preventing teen suicide.
  3. It is important to teach your child empathy skills. The best way to do that is to practice conflict resolution skills with your child until she is comfortable using them in a variety of situations. When you look at those conflict resolution skills, you will see that the empathy component is when the Responder is doing steps 2. and 3. in the process. For your convenience, those steps are:

Empathy Skills

Practice Reflective Listening

Show respect for the person by reflecting what they have said back to them--this lets them know for sure that you were listening.

For example, say,

"What I hear you saying is..." (then repeat what they just said as best you can)--do not interpret or put your "spin" on it!

Or, say,

"If I'm getting this right, you're saying..." (again, repeat what they just said)

After you have repeated their words back to them, ask, "Is that correct?" If they say yes, then move on, otherwise try again until you accurately reflect what they have said.

Show Empathy and Validation

Accept the validity of the other's feelings regardless of whether you agree with them.

For example, say,

"When I put myself in your shoes, I can see why you would feel that way" or,

"When I look at this from your viewpoint, what you're saying makes sense to me."

"That must really feel bad to you."

"I can only begin to imagine how much that would (hurt you, bother you, make you mad, etc.)"

Important Note...
You have to really mean these statements
for this to work. 
You can't fake empathy.

It can help to imagine that you are the other person, and think about how things look from their viewpoint. This is a skill that anyone can learn.

Express Understanding

Indicate understanding of what your partner is experiencing. Say,

"I think I can see where you're coming from" or,

"I see what you mean" or the old stand-by,

"I think I understand what you're saying."

Teach your child to use these skills in actual bullying situations by role playing what happens when they are being bullied. Be playful and have fun with this. If it gets too serious, you will lose your child's interest. You might want to get your other children involved, or some of your child's friends, and have fun with it! 

  • Learn about some of the excellent information, help and support available on understanding, treating and preventing inappropriate aggression between children. It is your job as a parent to be educated and aware, so that you can provide the best possible support for your child. Children can be seriously injured physically or damaged emotionally by bullying, and you are their best bet for protection!
  • Talk to his teacher, counselor or school principal about the bullying that's going on. If you do this, be sure to manage your own anger first, so that you don't create a new problem instead of solving the old one. If the school official is defensive, you might want to use reflective listening, or try conflict resolution skills. It is essential not to accuse, criticize of attack the school representative--they are usually underpaid and overworked, and kindness will work a lot better! In other words, don't be a bully yourself.

The most important thing for you to remember as a parent of a child who is being bullied is that you can't solve this problem by yourself, and your child needs to know they are not alone either.

No one has to be powerless in the face of a bully. I hope that the knowledge, tools and tips offered here help you to take a stand against bullying in your community.

Think of it as a team approach, including you, hopefully your spouse, your child and a teacher, counselor official from your child's school. Read this article for more information and learn more about how to help kids develop empathy here.

Is Your Child A Bully?

Good for you for taking this action! A lot of time parents of bullies are guilty of neglecting their children, or worse, encouraging their bullying. That's not you! You don't want your child to be a bully--you know it's bad for your child as well as those they are picking on.

In his book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman found in his research that bullies don't have empathy for their victims. The good news is that when they learn empathy--that is when they learn to accurately read the emotions of other children, they no longer pick on them.

He and his researchers found that children who bully usually think other children don't like them, and they are secretly afraid and hurt. Learning good social skills can be key to stopping the problem of bullying.

Here are some actions you can take to help your child stop bullying:

  • Teach your child good anger management skills. This is absolutely essential for you as a parent of a child who is bullying other children. You are smart and strong enough to take the action to read this, so get even stronger and smarter so you can get the job done once and for all!
  • Read this valuable information on child anger management, its causes and remedies. The more information and understanding you have, the better equipped you will be to help your child.
  • If your child is an adolescent, read this important information now! You absolutely must understand what adolescence means, and how anger fits naturally with adolescence. Our audiobook/CD programs will make it all very clear, and give you what you need to help your child manage their anger and aggression.
  • One of the most helpful things you do when parenting teenagers is to create a Rites of Passage ceremony to honor their transition into adulthood. Preview Adolescent Rites of Passage now, and find out how you can do a little that will help a lot!

Above all, be sure to communicate to your child that they are not bad! It is their behavior that is the problem, and there is a solution. Bullies are not happy kids, and you have what it takes to help! Teach your child that s/he can be their own best anger management resource.

Having Trouble With Bullying At Your School?

You deserve a medal! Not only are you a professional who has dedicated your life's work to educating our children, you are interested enough in them to help with the bullying problem. Fortunately, there are many wonderful resources to help you in dealing with the problem of aggression, violence and victimization in your school.

By the way, it will also be helpful for you to read this information on preventing school violence as a part of your effort.

As a concerned professional, you will do well to focus on these considerations:

  • You are not alone in your efforts to help children. Tell your story or ask your question about bullying now.
  • It is also very important that you understand that anger is a healthy emotion and that it is aggression, confusion, and emotional disturbance that we are dealing with in bullies and their victims. Your students need to learn about how to forgive and how to heal their anger so that it can be used in productive ways. Healthy anger fuels effective action!
  • The communication skills necessary for conflict resolution need to be taught in your school as a regular part of your curriculum. Learn these skills yourself, and see if you can find a way to regularly and consistently teach them to your students. They include empathy and reflective listening, which are powerful tools for bullies and their victims to learn, which will help them overcome their problems.
  • It is also essential that you manage your own anger, so that you don't add to the problems in your school. If this is a serious problem for you, and you find yourself afraid, irritated and angry a lot of the time, check out our books, CD/audiobook programs and counseling services.
  • And finally, to be an excellent educator, you need to become a Goodfinder, so that you are looking at your students' assets, strengths and good qualities and not their problems all of the time! Your students need you to believe in them!

And in conclusion, remember that you are a hero, a champion, and a role model to our citizens of tomorrow--perhaps moreso than you have ever dreamed!

We need you!

Is Someone Picking On You?

You may not feel like it, but you are strong and smart! How do I know that? Because you are strong and smart enough to be right here reading this and taking action to solve your problem!

You are not alone.

There are millions of other kids just like you, who want to feel safe at school or in their neighborhoods. All you have to do is reach out, and the help is there! I'm going to give you some great links to follow to get help, but first I want you to know these things about yourself:

  • You are a lot more powerful than you know. It has nothing to do with your size, your physical strength, or your ability to fight. You are powerful in your ability to learn and love. That's right. That is what makes you (or anybody) truly powerful. And you've got what it takes to take care of your bullying problem!
  • You might feel weak and helpless, but you're not. That's why you're here, reading this! You are taking effective action to solve your problem, and that is healthy anger!
  • You've got an internal protector who really wants to take care of you and keep you safe. That internal protector is your healthy anger! As you learn to create and develop your own healthy anger, you will become more powerful than you ever dreamed--in a good way that doesn't hurt anyone!

There are many wonderful resources to help you with this problem. Start with Stomp Out Bullying, where you will find a "help chat line" where you can get help for your specific problem.

Remember, you are not alone, and you are powerful!

Are You A Bully Who Wants To Quit Bullying?

What you're doing right now takes a lot of guts! You've got the courage and good sense to take responsibility for your own actions and try to stop your bullying behavior. Good for you!

But this is just the beginning. Here is what you need to do:

  • Learn about how to manage your anger and aggression and how you can develop healthy anger that doesn't hurt anyone!
  • Develop empathy skills that will solve your bullying problem once and for all! Find a friend or a counselor to help you, and role play with them until you have mastered these skills. This will teach you the skill of empathy, which is the cure for bullying!
  • Recognize that you are a good person, deep down inside. You really don't want to hurt anyone, you just want to connect with them. Picking on someone is a definite way of connecting, but it doesn't work well at all--for you or for your victim! You are here, reading this because you are a good person, and you want to change because you are good, and now all you have to do is take the action of learning and mastering the necessary skills.

Thanks for taking this time to help yourself! When you help you, you're helping everybody you know. Keep looking and learning!

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Other Bullying Stories

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

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