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Do’s and Don’ts When Talking to Kids Being Bullied

Kids may be growing in an ever-changing world, but bullying remains a constant. Here are tips on what to say and not to say to kids experiencing bullying.

Every bullying situation has unique circumstances. Try to consider the history, current facts, and future implications of each situation.

DON’T say…

“You just need to toughen up.”

Such comments are insensitive and will hurt the child and make him or her feel even weaker. It may be that the child is already acting as “tough” as he or she can. Teach kids to advocate for themselves by talking to a trusted adult before the situation escalates.

“God will always protect you from being hurt.”

While God does protect us, sometimes he allows difficult things to happen. And we can learn and grow from these things. Pray with the child for strength.

“You need to learn to fight back.”

Encouraging a child to use physical force such as kicking, hitting, or pushing to deal with a bully often makes matters worse by adding fuel to the fire. A child should learn how to stay safe and seek help from an adult rather than reacting in anger and violence.

“Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you.”

Words do hurt. Often the cruel jeers and taunts of a peer are more painful than a broken bone and carry long-term impact.

DO say…

“You did the right thing by telling me.”

This validates a child’s difficult decision to bring the matter to an adult’s attention.

“I care about you.”

This is always a good thing to say in a difficult situation.

“You’re a cool kid, and God has great plans for your life.”

Let children know that they are uniquely created, gifted, and valued by God. Help kids develop healthy self-esteem based on their worth to God and an awareness of his great love for them.

“Let’s pray for you and your enemy.”

Prayer turns the focus away from the bully and onto the greatness of God—who is more powerful than event eh biggest bully. Pray with the bullied child and together ask for God’s help—share the weight of this difficult situation.

Even Jesus had to face bullies.”

Jesus had his share of enemies. Remind your students that God’s Son understand how it feels to be betrayed, rejected, and hurt by others. He stood strong and loved others even when they treated him badly. We can follow his example.

These tips come from Group’s Emergency Response Handbook for Children’s Ministry. This book is full of counseling advice, practical tips, and Scripture connections to help you reach out in love. For more tips on responding to bullying, check out this article. You can find even more leader resources here!

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