How to Talk to your Kids about Being Bullied and Not Being the Bully


This morning as I was driving my son to school listening to the radio, he played his video game beside me. As I’ve mentioned before, he is on the autism spectrum and this is the first year I’ve not home schooled him. Yes, I’m concerned about how he is acclimating to his new surroundings, and the idea of him being bullied is one that is in the forefront of my mind. Like most boys, getting information about his day involves a lot of questions that are mostly met with one word answers. Today, rather inconspicuously, I asked him if he was making friends in his class.  “Yes mom”, he answered, without looking up from his game. He named two boys who he had been playing with at recess.

“But are the other kids in your class nice to you?  Do they call you any names?” I asked.

“Yes”, he said.  “They call me Joey.”

I guess with all the talk in today’s media of kids being bullied, even dubbing October as National Anti-Bullying Month, I have been a little anxious that perhaps my son might be the target of ridicule from his peers at school.  Having an IEP (independent educational plan) helps him in many academic areas, but socially he’s sort of on his own.  People can be mean.  Their words can be hurtful, even destructive.  Bullying is an issue that many of us parents think about, and one that can have devastating consequences.

How do we talk to our kids about bullies?

I’d like to think that “bullies” are those individuals who the movies used to depict as juvenile delinquents.  The rough-around-the-edges kids. My mind immediately goes to the image of “Butch” from The Little Rascals series.  He was a menace to the good kids, but only one antagonist–perhaps with a sidekick, who was well defined. Wouldn’t it be nice if in real life we’d know who these Butch-like bullies were, and we’d tell our kids to stay away from them?  Unfortunately bullying goes a lot deeper than what used to be depicted on screen.  Bullies can be kids who come from good homes, belong to church-going families, and who are respected as being intelligent and surprisingly friendly to some, can also bully others– and still cause very deep pain to those who they target.

We live in a time when kids are taught that character counts, but we must ask ourselves where do they learn these traits?  Well, for starters they learn many of their character traits from mom and dad.  Do mom and dad talk negatively about people who may be different than them, or do they speak kind words?  This is a huge area where we parents can take a deeper look at our own actions and make changes, if need be, in the ways which we speak about others.  I know I am doing a whole introspection about how I may have spoken words that were not-so-nice.

Friends of our kids also play a hugely important role in them picking up character traits of bullying. Do your kids hang out with those who are mean to others? Do they think they are better than someone else based on looks, intelligence, or economical position? My dad taught me the importance of choosing my friends wisely. He’d tell me and my brothers, “Dime quienes son tus amigos y te diré quien eres”, which translates to “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who YOU are.”  Choosing friends based on their popularity and not on their character can definitely backfire on all of us.

Luke 6:31 “Treat others just as you want to be treated.” It’s simple, but…Golden!

We can’t be with our children every minute of the day.  As praying parents, we pray for their physical and emotional protection.  But we must not bury our heads in the sand when it comes to bullying.  Not only must we talk to our kids about being the target of such hurtful words, we must also be proactive, and discuss with them the need to be Christ-like when we talk to and about others.  Reminding them that we are always there to listen to their concerns and answer their questions.  But we are also there to give them an example of character, as well as help them understand how important it is that they choose friends who possess Christ-like character traits.

About the Author: Lisa Strnad is a weekly contributing writer to What’s in the Bible? and Jelly Telly.  She works freelance in Christian Media, specializing in writing, promotions and marketing. Lisa lives with her husband and their two sons in Nashville, TN. Follow her personal blog:

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When my son Daniel, was in the third grade he got a pair of glasses. A girl in the class got a similar pair of glasses. A boy in class determined that it was his job to tell Daniel over and over that his glasses were girl glasses. Daniel didn't tell me this until it began to happen on the bus. He came home in tears telling me how he didn't want to wear his glasses anymore. Daniel is the caboose in our family so I already knew that giving him some of my words would not help. Kids have a funny way of repeating exactly what you said out of context in the wrong situation. We talked about his glasses and how they were not girls glasses and then we prayed. We prayed for the other child to become aware that he was hurting Daniel and that the teasing would stop. The very next day another child on the bus brought some coloring paper and colors with her on the bus. As children were picked up she offered them each a paper and crayon to color with during the ride. She had never done this before and the kids really enjoyed having something to do while they rode to school. How wonderful God was to Daniel to bring another child to divert the attention of the teasing boy. Daniel and I gave thanks when he came home and told me what happened. The teasing stopped in the classroom too. God is so very good. Maybe the lesson is to teach our children how to help a person being bullied by praying and coming to that person's aid by an act of kindness.


This will not go over well in today's world, but here goes. In my day, I am 58, bullies were as common as they are today. You could talk to your parents, you could talk to your teacher, but unless the bully was dealt with, he or she saw no reason to stop. I had one bully in Jr. high that would not stop no matter what the teacher or principal did, and why should he, he wasn't getting anything taken from him. So what made him stop? A good punch in the snoot. Bullies are all about power. Take that away and they have nothing.

Demetria @ Christian Homeschool Moms
Demetria @ Christian Homeschool Moms

Bullying is a tough topic to tackle, but it's something all parents have to address at some point. I'm glad that your son is doing well, and so long as he knows you're in his camp he'll have that confidence he needs to face whatever he has to- and with courage. Great post.