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Strategies to deal with bullying

I've never wanted to hit a kid until one was bullying mine. I know it's adding gasoline to a fire, but I didn't care. The papa bear in me was willing to go to war to keep my kiddo safe. I know I'd be *that* guy in lockup where other inmates would be questioning, "Wait, you hit a 9 year girl in the face?" before beating me up. But I didn't care. I wanted revenge.

Clearly I was not prepared to deal with my kid being bullied.

In the few years since my first exposure to my kid being bullied, I have navigated bullying with school administrators, counsellors, custody evaluators, judges, and my own parents for advice and perspective. As an attorney who works with cases involving children, bullying is an ever present issue in my professional life, as well as my personal one. Here are a few tips and strategies for dealing with bullying. I'd love to hear some of your own!


The National Center Against Bullying identifies four types of bullying:

- Physical Bullying: Hitting, kicking, tripping, or damaging property are examples of physical bullying.

- Verbal Bullying: This includes name calling, insulting, teasing, intimidation, homophobia, racism, or verbal abuse. While it may start off seemingly harmless, it can quickly escalate.

- Social Bullying: Sometimes called covert bullying, social bullying aims at harming someone's social reputation and foster isolation. This can include lying and spreading rumors, menacing or contemptuous looks, playing nasty jokes to humiliate, and encouraging others to exclude someone.

- Cyber Bullying: The Cyber Bullying Research Center defines cyber bullying as intentional and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, phones, or other devices. This includes abusive, alienating, and hurtful texts, posts, images, or videos. This can also include imitating others online.

When we understand the different types of bullying, we can better identify when bullying is taking place and thus we can quickly address the bullying before it escalates.


The most important things we can do for our kids when dealing with bullying is to create and foster safety. This includes the conversations we have with them about bullying. Recognize that kids who are bullied are dealing with lots of complicated emotions. Not only are they working through embarrassment and shame, they are also navigating anxiety about future bullying, loneliness from the isolation, paranoia about the potential spread of the rumors, sadness, and understandable anger.

Approach conversations about bullying as delicately as you'd handle a newborn. Spend the majority of the time listening to what your kid is going through. Ask questions. Don't impose your ideology or feeling or frustrations on kids. They are already holding onto enough. Instead, one strategy is to listen to and ask three questions and then give three validations of their answers before offering a different perspective. The 3-3-1 method.

We can't just have one or two conversations about bullying. We need to actively engage in dialogue regarding bullying and find gentle but direct ways to talk about bullying with our kids in every day conversation.

Finally, kids need modeled behavior. Not only can you role play with your kids on how to address various bullying situations, but keep in mind that anytime you are with your kids you're modeling behavior on how YOU handle bullying. Be mindful of your interactions with people (especially when on a road trip and stuck in traffic).


I love being a lawyer. I love defending my clients in court. When a client has an issue, I try my best to understand the issue, research solutions, then zealously represent those solutions to the court or adjudicator. Parenting should be no different, although the billable hour is significantly less.

A parent I respect jokingly quipped during one of our kids' basketball game we were at together, "Oh I have no problem being in everyone's inbox." I love that. Being willing to write an email, make a call, visit the school, talk with the principal, get therapy scheduled, address issues head on is the best way to advocate for your kids. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO BE A PARENT. I tell clients all the time that the court wants parents to parent.

Don't let the worry of doing it wrong mean you don't do anything. It's okay not to know exactly how to address bullying, but that doesn't mean you can't start looking into it. Here are some resources that I found successful:


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