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4 Ways to Discuss Bullying and Teach Empathy + Video

By Jean Tracy, MSS

Many bullied youngsters suffer in silence. Would your child tell you? Or would he keep it to himself?

Today I will share 4 discussion strategies and 5 empathic questions for discussing bullying with your children.

Below you'll find a video with 5 questions to ask your kids.

Imagine your child is quietly brooding. He stops playing with the neighbor kids, spends lots of time in his room, and seems distracted when you ask him a question.

"What's wrong?" you ask.

"Nothing," he answers.

Here's what you can do:

Use These 4 Discussion Methods to Get Your Child to Talk

1. Enter your child's world. Don't accept the word "Nothing." Go to your child. Tell him you know something's wrong and that you love him. Share what you've noticed about his behavior that tells you he's hurting. Gently probe and listen well.

2. Suggest he let his feelings out. Give him a pillow and ask him to smash his feelings into it. Say, "This is a good way to release your emotions." When he's done, ask him, "What were you thinking when you pounded the pillow?" If he gives you a one-word answer say, "Tell me more."

3. Ask him to draw his feelings. When he's done, ask different things about his picture and invite him to tell you more about them too. Again, listen well.

4. If what you learned is serious and action needs to be taken, discuss what to do. Make a plan together.

Appreciate what your child has shared with you. Avoid denying his feelings or criticizing his thoughts. Thank him for telling you what's been bothering him. Do something pleasant together like eating a snack or playing a board game.

These strategies can be used for a variety of situations not just bullying. They will bring you and your youngster closer because they show how much you care. Listening well is special way of loving. It's more likely he'll confide in you in the future too.

If your child hasn't been tormented by bullies, there are ways you can promote empathy and discuss bullying at the same time.

How Creating a Dilemma Can Start a Conversation:

Make up a dilemma involving a kid who's been hurting a smaller child with sarcasm, putdowns, or even physical force. A girl who's upset about it tells her mom. She's afraid if she if she tries to protect the little kid, the bully will target her.

Ask your child, "If you were the girl, what would like to do about it?" Her answer could be interesting. Continue the talk with more questions.

5 Helpful Questions that Can Build Empathy for Others:

Ask, "Have you ever witnessed bullying?" If she says, "Yes," encourage her to talk about it. Then chat together using the following questions:


1. Why would a big kid pick on a little kid?
2. How do you think the little kid would feel?
3. What do you think about bullies?
4. What advice would you give the bullied child?
5. What advice would you give the bully?

By discussing these questions you are building insight, character, and empathy in your child. Since she's already thought about the subject, it is hoped she will know what to say, do, or who to tell in a real bullying situation.

Conclusion for Bullying Discussions, Strategies, Questions, and Empathy

If you suspect your child is being bullied, enter his world; suggest punching a pillow and drawing his feelings to release his emotions. Appreciate what he shared and make a plan to handle the problem.

To discuss bullying, in general, make up a dilemma. Get your child's thoughts and ask the 5 questions. This will prepare your child to be empathic and help her decide what to do when bullying does occur.

Below is a brief video about bullying with 5 questions.

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Watch Teaching Empathy: How Parents and Kids Discuss Bullying Then discuss the questions with your child.

Pick up the Dilemma Discussion Kit You CAN guide your children's moral values with 51 friendly family discussions.

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