Talking to Toddlers About Bullying

Today is Pink Shirt Anti-Bullying Day. We started the morning looking through everyone’s closet looking for a pink shirts to wear. And we were successful. That was the easy part.

pink for anti bullying

 

The difficult part was explaining to my 4 and 2 year old what bullying is and why we are wearing pink shirts to support anti-bullying. I tried using the most simple, basic words and told them that bullying is when some one is mean to someone else with either their hands or their words and we want to help stop that from happening. We talked about it a little and they seemed to understand or at least they were able to repeat it when someone asked about why they were wearing pink shirts.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day. I think the big reason for that was that I was in fact bullied as a child. I was made to feel bad about myself, unsure and scared. That’s a big load for a little girl. I was bullied and made fun of for a number of reasons: the colour of my skin, the way I looked and the way I dressed. I was shy to begin with but this pushed it to a whole new level that led to depression, self-esteem and self-confidence issues. As a result, I didn’t have a lot of friends at school and I even used to pretend to be sick so I wouldn’t have to go to school.

But now I have children and it worries me that they could go through the same thing. I am so happy that there are initiatives out there to make the problem of bullying an open topic  to find solutions for and that schools have anti-bullying policies. Yet bullying is STILL so prevalent in our society, even more so with popularity of the internet and social media which has led to a whole new way to bully, cyber-bullying.

As parents, we can’t just protect our children from these realities, we have to be proactive in helping our children understand that bullying someone and being bullied is not acceptable. And it can’t just be talked about a couple times a year with these initiatives, but it has to be a regular conversation.

I looked up the definition of bullying and it said: blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people. 

It’s an apt definition, but try explaining that to a toddler. In my quest to make sure that I arm my kids with the proper tools and information to ensure they don’t bully anyone and they know how to react if they get picked on, I found some great resources and information:

1. Teaching your child to respect and not make fun of others who are different whether it’s race, appearance, special needs or religion is key according to kidshealth.org.

2. If your kids are too young to understand when you’re talking to them, read them some books about bullying that will help them understand. Some great books are:
–  BullyThe Juice Box BullyHugo The Happy StarfishThe Recess QueenEnemy Pie and How To Lose All Your Friends.

3. One of the most effective ways to stop a bully is for your child to speak up and say, “That’s not okay.” As parents, we need to help build the strength and courage for our children to stand up for themselves – Raise a Giant

4. If your child is being bullied it’s important to talk to someone about it and you can help your child work through it – KidsHealth.org

5. Most importantly, talk to your kids. Keep a dialogue going with them, starting from a young age so by the time they are old enough to be affected they have all the information and tools to deal with the situation.

pink shirt day - mother daughter

7 thoughts on “Talking to Toddlers About Bullying

  1. Oh my goodness, your children look like little angels, and they look just like you! Little mini-you’s! I’m sorry you got bullied as a child. I am fortunate not to have experience that, but I saw it a lot. I’m amazed that I didn’t get picked on because I was so shy and introverted, and I spoke another language. But my mother always taught me not to make fun of anybody, and it stuck. Your little angels are lucky to have you a teacher. Peace.

  2. It’s horrible to think that children as young as 2-3 year old’s can get bullied. I think I was about 4-5 the first time it happened and it is a scary time. Luckily, this post will help parents in that situation!

  3. Sorry to see that you were bullied as a child. Your kids will have you to support them should they ever experience it and I think you’ll do a great job. One of my daughters was bullied in primary school – once physically by a girl from a different class and later emotionally by 2 girls who were supposedly her friends.

    The first time was dealt with in a very straightforward way with the school monitoring the girl – it turned out my daughter was not her only victim and the girl had many problems. The emotional bullying was more complex. We talked about it a lot and I tried to help her feel able to cope, and in the end I could see we needed to involve the teacher. The teacher handled it very well, by not blaming them, but explaining to the girls that what seemed fun to them was hurtful to my daughter and also letting them know that if it continued the headteacher would be informed. It stopped and my daughter then began to make new friends. I think it’s really important when dealing with bullying to do as that teacher did and not end up bullying the bullies!

    I think your point about talking to someone else is very important because sometimes when a teacher is involved the child who is doing the bullying will take more notice – a parent could be seen as taking sides, whereas a teacher would be seen as impartial – but I think this can depend on the situation and each parent needs to decide what is best for their child.

    Perhaps surprisingly, there is evidence that kids who bully are actually trying to get close to the one they bully, but don’t have the social skills to express that.

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