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How to Address Bullying

By: Behaviorally Speaking

supportive mother comforting sad teenage daughter, who is being bullied, on living room couch

About this Podcast Episode

On this episode, Angela and Kristin talk about the ins and outs of bullying. They break down the different roles kids play in bullying, how to be proactive about it, and what to do when it happens.

About the Hosts

Angela Nelson, Ed.D., BCBA, and Kristin Bandi, MA, BCBA, are Board Certified Behavior Analysts with expertise on human behavior and child development. They spend their days working with parents and caregivers of both typically developing children as well as children with learning, social, and behavioral challenges, or developmental disabilities. This podcast is brought to you by RethinkCare

If you need support as a parent or caregiver of a child, we encourage you to ask your Human Resources team if RethinkCare is a part of your employer-provided benefits. RethinkCare reaches millions of lives globally through partnerships with top organizations and Fortune 1,000 companies.


Angela Nelson: Hello, and welcome to our thirty seventh episode of Behaviorally Speaking, I’m one of your hosts, Angela Nelson, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and mother of 2.

Kristin Bandi: And I’m Kristin Bandi, also a board, certified Behavior Analyst and mother of 3. Hey, Angie, how are you? How are you doing?

Angela: I am good. I’m good. It is like 4 days left until the end of the school year for my kids. I am looking forward to the no homework this summer.

Kristin: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Angela: It’s funny. Last night my daughter, my younger daughter asked, Mom, what are you looking forward to this summer? And I had to stop myself, because at first I’m thinking, well, I don’t get a summer break going to be exactly the same. But I did say, like, I’m looking forward to you guys, you know, hanging out with you guys more getting to see you guys have, you know, some fun times and stuff.

Kristin: That’s funny. I feel like I got a similar question from one of my kids, but I can’t remember because they don’t you know. I think they said something like, how come you don’t just take the summer off, or something like that, you know, like they totally didn’t understand. I’m like, well, it doesn’t really work like that in the workplace. Yeah, but we did something fun this weekend I was gonna ask you, so we went to. We went to Annie the show with my mom, and it was so fun. But I was gonna ask you if you’ve brought your girls at all before, because it’s the cutest.

Angela: Oh, we haven’t seen Annie together. I mean, we watch the movie together. they’ve seen other plays and stuff at like the local high school, which is always really fun. But no, I have to. I’ll have to check it out. So, it was good. Oh, it was so good! And it was so funny, because, you know.

Kristin: You know my kids. Now we only brought the older two, we obviously did not bring the two-year-old, but they are now. They’re 5 and 6 and I, I was like, I was a little bit worried about my 5-year-old because she just turned 5. I’m like, is she gonna be able to focus this long because it’s like 2 and a half hours. And she actually did. Great. I mean, she focused the whole time. She’s a little, you know, kind of moving around a lot, but the best part of the whole thing, if anyone’s seen it, the best part is the dog, like they have a dog that comes out, and he runs out, and that’s just probably a she in the in the play, and it’s so cute. And anyway. So, it was so adorable. But yeah,

Angela: The dog, Sandy, right?

Kristin: Yeah, Sandy, that’s right.

Kristin: Oh, it was good. So, we used to go when we were kids, my sister and I would always go, and my mom would bring us. And so now that she has grandkids, she’s like, we’re keeping this going. So yeah, so it was fun. Yeah. And I got to look out for it over there on the West coast.

Angela: Awesome. Well, we are gonna dive into another really important topic today, the topic of bullying. And we talked a little bit about why we wanted to dive into this. Why is this important? And we have a couple of stats that we want to share. So, this comes from the Pew Research Center some recent studies. They found a couple of pretty staggering statistics here. So, 35% of parents are extremely or very concerned about their child being bullied. 39% so they’re somewhat concerned and only 25% of parents said they are not concerned about. So, if you think about it only one quarter of parents are not concerned, which means 75% of parents have some level of concern around bullying. That’s pretty staggering. A couple of other stats, too, that we saw 90% of teams believe that online harassment is a problem that affects people, their age and 63% said that it’s a major problem.

Kristin: Oh wow, so over half.

Angela: Yeah, yeah. And what we know, too, and the literature around bullying and online bullying which we’re gonna dive those up and talk about both today is there’s definitely an increased or associated increased risk of anxiety and depression, isolation, a lower self-esteem, difficulty with trust and trusting others, anger issues, and poor performance and things like school and sports. So, there are a lot of implications, a lot of kind of unfortunate you know, consequences of bullying, and thus why we thought it would be really important to dive into today.

Kristin: Mmhmm yeah, this is a really important one and this one comes up a lot as you can imagine during my parent consultations. I’m hearing about it constantly so. And it makes sense now, when we look at the numbers right, like, if 75% parents are concerned, what makes sense that this is a consistent theme in my calls with parents. So yeah, I’m glad we’re diving into this.

What is Bullying?

Kristin: So, I’m gonna break it down for us just a little bit and kind of level set and talk about well, what is bullying and what is cyber bullying? Just so we can understand the definitions of those and just what are we really talking about here? So, the definition of bullying? It’s an aggressive behavior that includes 2 things.

  1. Imbalance of power. So, kids who bully typically will use their power, and that could be their physical strength or access to embarrassing information, or maybe even their popularity. And they’re gonna use that to control or harm others.
  2. Repetitive: And then the bullying behavior has to be repetitive. So, the behavior is chronic the bullying behaviors happen more than once, or at least have the potential to happen more than once. So those are kind of the 2 characteristics will say for bullying. And that’s what we see.

What is Cyber Bullying?

Kristin: Yeah, yeah. And then, in terms of cyber bullying. So, this one makes sense to me right? Like everything is digital these days, it’s everywhere. It’s totally unavoidable. And so, whereas maybe when we were kids, cyber bullying wasn’t that big of a deal, I think cyber bullying actually has just taken. it’s really the main focus. Now, it’s everywhere. And so, with cyber bullying, this, obviously it’s gonna take place over digital devices. So, we see it most often on things like social media. We’re, of course, gonna see it in text messaging, or all the 1 million different kinds of messaging apps that there are out there right now. I don’t know the names of all of them and then, you know, online forums, any sort of chat rooms or messaging boards email. Of course, kids still use those a lot for school and then definitely, the online gaming communities. This is what I hear about a ton. So, we’re gonna see that there, too.

Concerns with Cyber Bullying

Kristin: And then some unique concerns. And these are really interesting to me when it comes to cyber bullying, and these are different than they. They could be the same as bullying. But these are kind of like what we see with cyber bullying is:

  1. Persistent: They’re persistent, right? So, it can be really difficult for children who’s experiencing the cyber bullying to find relief if they’re if they’re in a text messaging group, right? And they’re in that group and then bam, it’s right there in their face for example, if it’s on Facebook or whatever applications that social media they might be using. It’s right there. And it could be very persistent.
  2. Permanent and Public: And then, obviously, with technology, it’s permanent right? So, a lot of the information is communicated electronically. So, it’s permanent and it’s public. So, it’s really difficult to get away from that.
  3. Hard for Parents to notice: And then this last one, which is most important in my opinion, is as a parent it’s hard to notice. So, whereas with regular bullying you might, there’s a lot of people that could overhear it right. There’s a lot of people that can see it, but sometimes with cyber bullying this can take place, and unbeknownst to the parent right? They don’t see it, so it’s harder to recognize.

Angela: Oh, gosh, yeah.

Kristin: I know. That is hard, as a parent you’re like, oh.

Angela: Kinda well, it’s hard to know as parents. You know where these things are taking place. You have to kind of be invited to these groups or accepted into certain channels and things like that. So, you can’t always easily get access.

Kristin: Right? Oh, man, it’s hard.

Bullying Personas and Risk Factors

Angela: Well, yeah. And so, knowing that, too, we’re gonna dive into um talking a little bit about the different personas right? So, what sort of categories, if you will, kids’ kind of fall into? So, in doing our research, we looked at a couple of different kind of buckets essentially.

The Bully

Angela: So, we’ve got kids who bully. That is one group of kids. So, these are children, and teens that engage in this bullying behavior towards their peers, and we know that there are quite a few risk factors that contribute to a kid or a teens involvement in this sort of behavior.

So, some risk factors might be:

  1. Parents are not particularly involved in what they’re doing, kind of not really knowing what they’re up to.
  2. Some kids might be aggressive or more easily frustrated
  3. Some of these kids have other friends who bully some may view violence in a positive way, and etc., etc.

So those are some of the risk factors that could increase the likelihood that your child would be a bully. Oftentimes these particular kids or teens do require some support to change their behavior and kind of address you know these other challenges that might be influencing this sort of bullying behavior. So that’s one group.

The Bullied

Angela: Another group is, of course, the kids who are bullied. And these kids and teams. They’re essentially by definition, the targets of this bullying behavior.

So just like we just talked about before, there are some risk factors that put these particular kids at a higher risk. So, some might be that they are different in some way from their peers:

  1. Maybe physically or social emotionally.
  2. It might be that there’s an increased anxious behavior, or they might be more depressed. This could be, you know, a factor that contributes, but also could be a resulting factor, too right? Yeah, totally directional thing.
  3. Sometimes kids are bully because they’re viewed as more weak or unable to defend themselves.
  4. Might be viewed as less popular, and so on, and so on.

So, there are various risk factors, but not all kids that fit these characteristics will be bullied, of course. and then certainly some of these kids will need to learn. need help learning how to respond to bullying, of course, which we’ll get into in a little bit. Just a couple of other kind of groups or cohorts of kids.

The Bullying Assistant

Angela: So, there are kids who assist. So, these are going to be the kids that might not start the bullying or lead in the bullying behavior. But they might be a quote unquote assistant to the kids who are doing the bullying. these kids in particular may encourage the bullying behavior and occasionally join in so that’s one group, and then there’s another group kids that reinforce so they might not be directly involved in this behavior. But they’re giving an audience. And they have shared this on a previous, podcast like how we recently broke up a bullying incident at the park my one of my co-, my one of my friends and I and there were a lot of kids that were just standing by with their cell phones. They were the audience. they might laugh.

Kristin: Oh no.

Angela: Yeah, support to the those that are doing the bullying and that kind of you know, perpetuates it right? It kind of reinforces, it increases, encourages it to continue.

The Outsider

Angela: And then there’s 2 other cohorts of kids. So, there’s outsiders. They remain separate from the bullying situation. So, they’re not reinforcing. But they’re not defending the child that’s being bullied. They might watch what’s going on, but not necessarily, you know, give any feedback about the situation. They they’re not taking sides necessarily, but you know, providing an audience is still sometimes encouraging the behavior to occur. these kids may want to help, but oftentimes they don’t know how. Yeah?

The Defender

Angela: And then the last group are the kids who defend. So those kids are actively getting involved. They are actively, you know, comforting the child or the teen who’s being bullied. They might come in to defend that child when bullying occurs. So, there’s different cohorts of kids. This is not an exhaustive list. But we can assume a lot of kids are going to fall into one of these categories.

Kristin: Yeah, I’m thinking I have so many different thoughts as you are going through those one. I think it’s so important to highlight all of those, because your child is going to be one of these, right? At some point they will be one of these, because it’s kind of this, this kind of feel like it encapsulates all of the kids. So, it’s like, you want your kid to be one of these, hopefully, maybe the kid who’s defending, perhaps, or maybe even, you know, not getting involved, or at least getting a parent or a teacher involved, but then also you mentioned you broke up a bullying situation. But you did not share that.

Angela: Oh, I didn’t?

Kristin: I want to hear about it.

Angela: Gosh, okay. So, in short yeah. Oh, gosh, this was an interesting story. We went to the park a couple of weeks ago they just refurbished one of the parks near our school. It’s right above my kid’s school. My kids go to a K through 8. So, all the way up to eighth grade, so our kids were playing nicely, I had one of my best friends she has kids. Her kids are in the exact same grade. Her 2 kids are in the same 2 grades as my kids and so, we were playing, or they, you know, we were chatting. The kids were playing, and then the middle school had just got dismissed. A large group of kids came up to the park, and they were kind of lining up, getting out their phones. There were 2 kids’ kind of in the middle, and I just knew right away what was going on.

Kristin: Oh no.

Angela: And so, I took my friend, and we started walking over there. We were kind of, you know, asking a few other parents if they wanted to come over, I said. Look, it looks like there’s a fight starting a lot of the parents just shook their heads. No, don’t want to get involved.

Kristin: What?

Angela: So, it’s funny how some of these personas can get in adulthood.

Kristin: Yes.

Angela: And I was like, Okay, I’m maybe this is just me. But I’m not gonna stand around and let some person, some other person’s child, be beat up and just let that happen.

Kristin: Oh gosh.

Angela: Plus, my kids are at the park. Other young kids are right watching it. So, my friend and I went over there, and I just I don’t know. I grew up as a very shy kid, but I guess as adulthood I have become, you know, more outgoing. But I was like uh no, we’re not doing this.

Kristin: Yes, we’re not doing this, I can see it.

Angela: I’m walking over there, my little straw hat, my little you know Birkenstocks just like running over and my friend’s come over, too, and we did, we successfully broke it up. But it’s funny that some of these kids these days are just so bold, they’re kind of looking at us. A few kids so shouted back like, what are you gonna do? Tell our moms. And I was like, Oh, my gosh! I would never have spoken that way to an adult when I was a kid. It’s oh, that’s probably for another Podcast just the way kids are these days. But I will say, majority of kids have good behavior. Some of these kids I was surprised by so anyways, the worst part, though, was you know, we broke it up the child that was being targeted. We got over there not soon enough, before the child had his shirt was torn, and he they through him on the ground.

Kristin: Oh, my gosh!

Angela: I know! But that was the worst of it. So, he rode off on his scooter. He was gone. The worst part, though, was, we went back. We let the kids play. And then our kids wanted to leave. So, we hopped in the car, and we drove off, but one of the kids started, or there was small group of kids they were following us. Oh, oh, on their that was that was very bold. And so, my friend was with us that she said, don’t go home. You go around a little bit, and you could tell they were following, because everywhere we were going we were turning different directions. They were following us. So yeah, we ended up driving to the school. I was thinking, Okay, well, what’s the last thing to do? Because we saw the principal’s car was still there. So, we went talk to the principal. Obviously it’s off campus, and it was after hours they couldn’t really do much.

Kristin: Wow.

Angela: But they, you know this? Wow, the whole thing. It’s yeah. I will just kind of leave it there. But it was a yeah. It was a whole situation that we got involved in which, you know, I didn’t want to get involved in it, but I couldn’t just stand by and do nothing. So yeah.

Kristin: Wow, I mean, that’s I’m like, almost speechless because I it’s amazing that so many other parents we’re like, no, not going near that. And it’s just so. It’s so many mirrors. What we just said about like the kids having personas. But then we have to think like these kids grow up right. And then you might carry on the same persona. So, I just a total sidebar. But I don’t even think I had a chance to tell you this, but I had a similar experience a little bit related. I was out last weekend with my kids. We live on like a pretty rural, rural? I can’t say that word.

Angela: I’ve never been able to say that.

Kristin: Everyone’s trying it now. Rural. Yeah. So, we live on a street that’s not busy, and it’s a wide street, and kids can like ride their bikes, and we don’t even have a ton of children in here. But anyhow, I had my kids out. My daughter just learned to ride her bike. So, I had the 2 big watches I had them all out and the 2 bigger one’s kind of rode off ahead of me down toward our house, but it’s like, you know, there, there’s no threats right there.

Angela: Aside from your alligator.

Kristin: Aside from the alligator. Yes, there is an alligator. He’s still there, Sir Douglas is there, so I’m pushing the little one who he’s 2, so he can’t ride on his bike yet I’m pushing him up, pushing him on one of those like little bikes that has the handle, you know. So, we’re just going down the street, and we’re close to our house in this car. I see it coming from behind, and I’m like, man. They’re not slowing down, and I’m in the side of the road. My kids are in the middle of the street because they’re like getting close to our house middle of the road. I start screaming to the older 2 like, stop guys, go to the side, go to the side, and they like we didn’t hear you, mom, so they didn’t hear me. Thankfully the car that flew by me on our street turned around. We have a little cul-de-sac right there. They turn around the cul-de-sac before getting to like our little road into our house and when they turned around, I kind of like looked at them as they were passing by me again. They all rolled down their windows and flicked me off bunch of teenagers.

Angela: Oh.

Kristin: I was like, what? Yeah, I’m an adult here. I’m flagging you down to slow down. And then they just drove by and left, and it was nothing. And it makes me just so worried, for like the kids that. So those kids, obviously right in this case could potentially be bullying other kids. And they just think it’s okay, like, and they could, you know do that to an adult like, what are they doing to their peers? It just is where my mind went.

Angela: Yeah, it’s just I mean, it’s disappointing. It’s I keep trying to remind myself to, there’s so many great kids, so many great teenagers out there. But it’s you know, we see those sort of examples and you know, and then it’s just like, oh, my, gosh, what’s going on here?

Kristin: Yeah, and I think it’s different when you become a parent right? Like that’s something that I was talking to some friends about when it happened. And they were like, I feel like when you’re a parent your perspective changes to on these things, whereas, like you, you know, you kind of ran up to those kids at the park whereas with me I probably would have just been like whatever to the car rather than try to like to confront the car. You know I feel like when you become a parent your mind changes on these things which segways so nicely into the next part.

What Can Be Done About Bullying?

Kristin: So, like, what can we do about this? If our if you know with bullying like, how do we teach these skills to our little kids and to our teens? And like, how do we go about this as parents?

Angela: Yeah, let’s get into it.

Kristin: It’s a lot. Okay, so let yeah, let’s get into the good stuff. So obviously, that’s kind of, you know, setting the stage for what it is, how it happens. What do we see? But when we’re talking about, we’re going to start. We like we’ve done before, kind of with the younger kids and then moving into the teens.

Little Children

Teach Them What Bullying Is

Kristin: But so, what are some things that that we can teach ours? Or what can we do to teach our little ones right. The younger kids about the I think the big one, probably to start out with is start talking about how to identify when someone’s being a bully, right? So, like we just did where we characterize. Well, where? Where does everyone fall on this? And what does it look like? I think it’s really important to even just have that conversation with our kids like, what does a bully look like? Because a lot of kids probably don’t actually know you know, they could just be going about their day thinking like, oh, that kid’s being so nice when really they’re not so really, yeah or sometimes they don’t know if they’re being the bully, too.

Angela: We want to make sure that as parents were realistic, like, our kids are not always necessarily the recipient actually be doing the bullying. And do we know what’s going on? You know?

Kristin: No, it’s so true. That’s a really good point. this is going to be a forever episode. Sorry everyone. because it’s such a good topic. But my son plays, my oldest play is baseball, and this is about a year ago now, but it was it’s interesting that he was in the outfield, and he was kind of gently haggling, haggling. Yeah, right? That’s where the other team.

Angela: Oh, heckling?

Kristin: Heckling yeah.

Angela: Wait what? He’s trying to strike a deal.

Kristin: Yeah, heckling, thank you. Heckling the other teammate like, oh, come on! Hit the ball something like that. But it was like so quiet enough that like only I could hear, and I knew it was going on, but I had to talk to him about it. I was like, Hey, that’s actually like kind of mean. You might see that somewhere like in a show or a movie. I don’t know. I don’t know where he learned it, but you know we’re not going to do that to your point, like, I think kids don’t know what’s considered bullying unless we tell them so.

Angela: No, it’s important to be aware of these things. And it’s interesting because some parents well, a lot of this might stem from things that they’ve seen from other kids, but also from other parents. So, I think it’s a good reminder, I know. Yes, as parents, especially when it comes to sports. We have seen that some parents are not very sportsman like.

Kristin: Yeah, it’s true.

Angela: and you know we have to be a self-aware, my older one, it got into the same sort of thing because she does volleyball, and she was, there was a like a shorter kid. And so sometimes, if the ball is gonna come closer to the net on the other side, you would yell short and my daughter in these tournaments she was the only one doing that she would yell short, and so my husband and I had to come afterwards and say, hey, listen! That’s not so nice to say, because you’re basically implying this kid doesn’t have a strong serve. And it’s gonna be kind of weak going over.

Kristin: Oh wow.

Angela: There’s no point in saying that it’s not very nice and she just had no idea right. And so, I think if we, as parents can have these just to be constructive discussions with our kids before they start snowballing into being unsportsmanlike or just I think that’s important.

Teach Them Characteristics of a Bully

Kristin: So true. Yup, exactly. And then the next one, which is the opposite side of the coin right? So, talk about the characteristics of a buddy. And this one’s so important because I have a this has happened a few times now on calls with parents, but I have a recent one where the little guy was like 8 or so. He had no idea that his quote unquote friends right? We’re bullying him. And so, the parent was asking me like, how do I teach him that what they’re doing actually is really unkind and disrespectful. They are purposely excluding him and making fun of him and asking him to do things that that he probably wouldn’t normally do. But he was trying to impress that his friends and she’s like, how do I teach him that these are not his friends. And so, when the moms like, I’m trying to get him to like, make new friends, he’s like, no, but these are my friends this is who I want to hang out with. And so, it was a really tricky conversation that she had to have with him like, hey, these kids are not actually being very nice to you.

Angela: That’s a hard conversation to have, though, because on some kids may not be able to differentiate. My older one said something exactly the same. There’s a girl, and that she knows in her grade that has a disability. And you know, some challenges with social skills. And she’s got a couple quote unquote friends that are a grade older, but my daughter’s picking up on hey look they’re actually making fun of something. They’re laughing at her, not with her, and she’s not able to distinguish. And she’s thinking that they’re, you know, friendly and stuff. But they’re actually making fun of her. And it’s yeah. It’s really, really hard sometimes to kind of disentangle like, oh you know, those intricacies like they’re not actually, you know, smiling, laughing with you. They’re making fun of something. And so that’s tough.

Figure Out Which Role They Are Playing

Kristin: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And then the next part of it. Probably I would say, we want to ask them what role they’re currently playing and bullying right? So, and this kind of goes to what we were talking about before. So that’s why I like the beginning to kind of level set like, what are the roles right? And so, if your child comes to you with a certain scenario right? We might be able to say, and what role are you playing? And would you want to play a different role if you, if you had the opportunity. If they’re being the bully right well, how might you be able to change that behavior? Or if you’re not really saying anything or defending that trial. How might you be able to do that right? So, I think just kind of like taking a step back and talking to your kids about like, all right. Well, what role are you playing here? 

Identify How to Diffuse Bullying Situation

Kristin: And then another. And you had mentioned this earlier? If your child is the one being bullied. I think sometimes it is helpful to look at. Well, are there things that that child might be doing that is, is maybe perpetuating the situation right? So, it could be some things that you had mentioned before right? So maybe it is like they are just showing that they are more vulnerable to bullying right? So then, the bullies are like the We’re coming for you right. But there could be the other things that the child might be doing is, maybe they’re instigating the situation a little bit, but they don’t know it like we just talked about. So, you know, that could be part of it, too.

Angela: Yeah, that’s tricky, right? It’s like no child ever deserves to be bullied. But I know I’ve talked to my older daughter, and I’ve kind of fished a little bit and realized, oh, okay, you’re actually maybe you’re rolling your eyes a little bit, or maybe making comments. And so, some behaviors are like egging them on a little bit. Again, no one deserves to be bullied. Just want to be going on the record and say that, but it’s good to kind of get to the bottom of it and maybe your child is actually starting to do some bullying things, too, and they’re not 100% innocent.

Kristin: Well, and this is actually to kind of sidebar from that, this is a conversation I have with parents, a lot in that t’s helpful and I don’t know if we have this later on, but it’s helpful for parents to talk to kids about what a bully like, what feeds a bully right. So, like, if you’re being bullied, a lot of parents might say, hey, try to try to walk away or try to like to figure out why, that bully might be bullying, and then see if we could figure out a way to get them to stop right. But it then it does fall back on that child to say you know what I am not going to stand for this right? I’m going to walk away or I’m going to go get a teacher, but I think it does come from just teaching them, what do we do?

Find a Trusted Adult

Kristin: And that’s the last one on here. So, talking about what they can do right? If they’re being bullied, they want to find an adult that they can go to right? So, it’s someone that they trust. And you could even have them that person could then help create the plan to stop the bullying right because they may not want, a lot of times I hear this from parents all the time. They don’t want the teacher to intervene, and we see this more so with older kids, but they don’t want the teacher to intervene, and they don’t even want to go in tattle right? But maybe coming up with a plan ahead of time could be really helpful for these kids.

Angela: Yeah, yeah, I think it’s easier to get help from an adult when you’re younger, we’re going to talk about the teens in a minute. It’s a little bit.

Kristin: Yeah, definitely.

Find a Peer or Peer Group

Angela: Yeah, well, so just a couple of other things to add to the younger kids before we get into team. So, one of the things is helping kids find a peer or a peer group that can help them feel less alone. So, their strength and numbers. Also, if you’re around, you’re surrounding yourself with kids that build you up, make you feel good that can definitely help to serve as a protective factor against bullying. Stay away from bullying areas (h4)

Angela: And then, yeah, in encouraging them to stay away from maybe places where bullying happens, or perhaps closer in close proximity to adults and other kids. So, staying away from areas, maybe where they’re alone, or they might be cornered. And things like that. So, stay in more public areas could be helpful just from an environmental standpoint.

Rehearse How to React in Bully Situation

Angela: Rehearsing what to say yeah, comfortable. So doing, those role plays, it’s easier to just say, hey, just say this, or just walk away, but put yourself in your kids’ shoes. Remember back what it was like when you were in third grade, for example, right? So being able to rehearse role play might make it a bit more automatic or a bit more comfortable for them when they’re actually in the moment to say the things you practiced.

When to Go Other Parents

Angela: And then talk a little bit about when to go to other parents, you know. So, finding adult is one thing. But what’s the decision tree around? When do we go to other parents? When can we try to manage it on our own? When do we walk away those sorts of things, so kind of walking through different decisions.

Kristin: Oh, that last one! I get that question constantly and again, it’s different with younger kids and teens, and we’ll get into teams in a minute, but with younger kids it’s a I feel like a lot of times you could ask your child. Do you want me to go talk to Suzy’s mom right with that, would that be okay for me to do that? And a lot of times with their younger kids they’re like, sure, you know, I mean, I feel like the numbers getting lower or yeah, lower and lower each year on whether kids are like, yes, please and insert yourself here, mom. But you know, I obviously you could ask, but I feel like when they’re younger they might be more willing to let your kind of acolytate that conflict resolution if you will. But as they get older it definitely becomes more difficult right? Yeah.


Find Trusted Adult

Kristin: Which is a good segway into what we’re going to do. I know, that’s gonna say, okay, yeah. So, let’s talk a little bit about teens and starting with if you’re being bullied right? So, if your teen is being bullied, what can we teach them to do right? So, the first one, I think is going to be this. We want to teach our teens. Well, you got to speak up and you got to find a trusted adult. And that’s not always the easiest thing to do, but that’s why we were saying before, like, maybe if you have a plan ahead of time, and when these things happen, the team might feel more comfortable doing it. So maybe they’re not going to go to the adult in front of the peer that’s bullying them, but maybe they could excuse themselves to the restroom, and then actually go to the nurse right like. There’s a way that they can find that path to go to that trusted adult.

Angela: Yeah.

Handle Disagreements Privately

Kristin: And then I think a really important one, and huge for our teen population is teaching our kids how to handle disagreements privately right? So even if somebody is, let’s just say someone’s bullying your teen on some sort of social media platform. Well, maybe we could work with our own teen on not retaliating right? So, like again, don’t feed it. Figure out a way for you to get the support that you need. And obviously we want to teach our teens well, if you happen to be the one right that that is, maybe you know, putting this stuff on social media let’s learn why we shouldn’t do that.

Practice What to Say

Kristin: The next one, which we just talked a little bit about practicing what your child could say next time. And I think again, this is really important to talk about. Okay, what are we going to say, maybe we need to role play role, play it a little bit so that they can do it with confidence. And you know, just maybe it’s like autopilot at that point.

Stay in Public Spaces

Kristin: And then similar to before staying near your friends and in public spaces. So, you know, I just keep thinking back to this example you gave me this poor middle schooler being bullied, and it’s like he almost kind of did all the right things right like he was around adults, and he stayed and all these places. But again, I think that these are gonna this will. This will help if you teach your teens, hey? Listen, don’t go off, you know into an area where you’re potentially, you know, going to get yourself cornered into a situation that you can’t get out of.

Angela: Yeah. oh, tough.

Involve a Trusted Adult

Kristin: And then the last one which I just mentioned earlier. So, asking your team if they want you to get involved. So, I think, whereas with our little ones potentially, we could just get involved right? I think when we get to teens, we have to say, do you want me to get involved, because some cases they may not actually want you to step in.

Angela: Yeah, that’s where it gets kind of tricky with the age. So, yeah okay, so that is, you know, if your child is billing is being bullied. And then if you see bullying as a teenager, here are some things to kind of think about.

Summary of What Can Be Done About Bullying

Angela: So again, talking to your child about what bullying is and what it’s not so helping them kind of build up some examples know what to look for. If they’re at school, they kind of observe something, they can identify it and then, learning how to be more of a bystander, more than excuse me more than a bystander. So, this kind of goes into the next one, too, which is can you get involved? Can you speak to the bully directly, if possible, and if it’s safe to kind of explain the impact right there. There may be situations where your child is in is kind of looked up to you know, for some reason, or whatever could they use that positive kind of persona, or positive position at their school to be, to set a good example or to be a good influence. again, want to re, you know, reinstate that if it’s possible, if it’s safe to do so. You know, how can you raise a child that’s more than a bystander? So that stands up for what’s right, stands up for people to help kind of diffuse situations. And then again, you know, maybe you’re not involved. But you see something that’s happening. Maybe you can get help from adults. Even if your child’s afraid of retaliation, it might be they can, you know, privately, go to a trusted teacher, counselor. Maybe you know there are at school. There are those teachers that are like, beloved by all the kids right? It’s the cool person that maybe also happens to be the coach of such and such team. And they are just the cool teacher. And so maybe that person comes up and is able to get involved and say, like guys, what’s going on here. Let’s just, you know, stop this.

Kristin: Yeah.

Angela: So, there are a couple of different ways to do that. But yeah, I think it’s important, like we talked about earlier. Have these discussions with your kids and see how you can empower them to get involved in and stand up for kids when it’s safe for them to do so.

Kristin: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I feel like there’s, probably even ways now that you can send things anonymously. I feel like, you know, teams might print it out, and maybe, you know, like, put it in the in someone’s mailbox, the teacher’s mailbox or something, you know, I feel like there’s probably even some ways that they can get this message across. That’s not You know. They they’re they can do it anonymously, I guess, because I think you’re right, that in this teenage group it is they. They probably are afraid of any sort of backlash that they might get if they if they’re the tattle tale right? And that and that is going to prevent someone from stepping up and potentially, somebody could get very hurt.

Angela: So. Yeah, well, I mean, I can relate to that, because the kids that we’re following us on their bikes and their scooters, I think it was trying to just intimidate us, or whatever I was afraid, because now they know what kind of car I drive, and right as an adult, though I was willing to take that risk, because I felt like it was my duty as a citizen of this town to, you know, prevent somebody from hurting another person, you know, another family’s child. But can you imagine if you’re just you know, if you’re younger, it’s easy to just say I don’t want to get involved. I don’t want to be a target. And so that’s you know, that is really tough. It’s tough to kind of know. And so again, just having discussions, having a plan. How are you going to handle this situation ahead of time can you know give them the tool so that they don’t have to you the easy way out is just say, all right, I’m going to just walk away. I don’t want to get this, but that’s not necessarily the best option.

Kristin: Well, yeah and especially if you tell your kids like, hey, listen, it’s we know that’s the easy way out. But what if everybody has that approach right like, who is gonna stand up for this one child. Someone’s got to do it right? And I actually love that you mentioned that you know, some kids in particular, just maybe based on their personalities or kids tend to, to kind of look up to them right? And maybe they are you know, someone that is it the other peers look up to. Let’s use that for good, you know. Use that that and help kind of stand up for what’s right? So, I actually feel like that’s really important that you mentioned that.

Angela: Yeah that reminds me I distinctly remember this in high school there was a student, she has a disability and it kind of goes to what we were talking about earlier, she was interacting with some of the older kids, and they were, she was doing something, and they were they were laughing at her, and she kind of perceived that as they were just kind of being playful, and so on. But they were they were making fun of her, and this is a true story, the star basketball player at our high school, came up who I kid you not is now a special education teacher.

Kristin: Oh wow.

Angela: That is his job. Yeah. But he came up and he was like, you guys I wasn’t close enough to hear exactly what he said, but it’s something to the effect of, like, you guys knock it off, you know, and he came up, and he was talking to her, and they kind of fizzled out right? And I never saw that behavior again. But he was a person of status at the school people looked up to him, and he kind of shut that down right away. And it was a big, you know. He took a risk by doing that going against everybody else. But he did it pretty easily, and you know, and it was it was really impressive. It was really cool. Obviously he had some values there, and he had some strong opinions because of the job that he has now. But I don’t know. I just think that’s a really good example of how you can use your status and your position for good.

Kristin: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah, and maybe that adds in like another role right? Go back and going back to the top of like the roles like, where are you? Where are you in this? Yeah.

Cyber Bullying

Kristin: Okay, well, and we’re gonna move on and talk a little bit now about cyber bullying. So just kind of, you know, separating that out just a little bit, just because we obviously we see a huge increase in that now. And it’s important, we felt like it might be important to spend a little bit of extra time on that, just to just to give you all some information about cyber bullying, and maybe what you could, what are some warning signs and maybe ways that you can support. So obviously, it’s going to be consistent with all the stuff we said before, but looking at cyber bullying in just it, looking at just cyber bullying, some of the warning signs that you might see with your child.

Warning signs of Cyber Bullying

Noticeable Change in Device Use

Kristin: So, a noticeable change in device use. So, this is a big one, we might see suddenly, there’s an increase or a decrease, right? So, either one might indicate that there’s something going on in, you know, one of the platforms on that device right? So, a decrease is like all of a sudden your child like puts closes up all the apps. And like I’m done, I’m not doing it anymore, right? But there’s not a particular reason. an increase is okay. Now we see they’re on it all the time, and they’re, you know, not they can’t pull away like they used to. So, I think both of those are equally as important.

Angela: Yup.

Emotional Responses While Using Device

Kristin: And then looking for emotional responses to things that might be happening on the device. So obviously, if you’re watching your child or your team on their device, and then, you know, they seem more frustrated, or they’re more, you know, easily irritated when they put their device down. Or, you know, just a change in behavior. It might indicate that something’s going on there that that you might not know about.

Hiding Device

Kristin: Hiding the device, this is a big one. When other people approach now, I mean, maybe one maybe one disclaimer on this is like teens are teens right? Like they probably don’t want to as the parent, viewing their content and seeing what you’re looking at or like you, seeing who they’re texting and all that. But I think this is more. If they’re kind of putting it away. And they’re, you know, don’t want the. They’re really pushing back on you, looking at certain things that might be a red flag there.

Angela: Yeah, I think that’s important caveat, right? Like, it’s not necessarily an indication that cyber bullying is occurring either from them or to them. But it’s an it’s a red flag to be aware of, regardless because something might be going on. They they’re not wanting you to see something right?

Kristin: Exactly. Yeah. And I don’t. I think we mentioned this a long time ago, and I have no idea what? What? Podcast maybe when we talked about screen time. But there are various applications that you can download as a parent on your team’s phone, Bark is one of them. It’s a really good app you can use where it actually monitors, cyber bullying. So, if you’re not familiar with that, and you are worried about your child potentially being cyber bullying, or you know anything elect. It’s gonna it’s gonna flag everything on there for you. So, it’s a pretty cool system that they have set up. So yep, definitely check that out.

Changes in Social Media Accounts

Kristin: And then changes in social media accounts. This is if you, I guess we should say, if you’re lucky enough to know right what social media accounts your teams have. Hopefully, you are, and you you’re able to see that. But if you notice, they’re closing them out, and then they’re starting new ones and then closing other ones out and starting new ones. That might be an indicator that something’s going on there and then just a couple more.

Avoidance of Social Situations

Kristin: So obviously avoidance of social situations right? So, if they’re I actually, this is what I do get. Quite often I and I do have to kind of pry the parents a little bit to say, has anything happened socially? Because they might say to me, you know, my team doesn’t want to hang out with these friends anymore. And a lot of times, I’ll say, I think we need to get more information here and figure out what happened with these friends that she’s had, you know, for the last 3 years and suddenly she doesn’t want to hang out with them anymore. So that could be an indicator as well.

Angela: Right.

Withdrawn Behavior

Kristin: And then finally withdrawing, or any sort of depressed behavior, right? So, we’re seeing a big change in behavior. And this could go for bullying or cyber bullying. If you’re seeing a huge change in your kid’s behavior. It could mean that something more is going on right.

Angela: I think that those last 2 bullets are really where the rubber meets the road with the cyber blank. That’s where the consequences really get real right. They’re taking it from the cyber world, and therefore into the real world. They’re not wanting to hang out with friends in person. They’re not. They’re depressed. They’re withdrawing from people. So yeah, that’s when the implications really start to ramp up right?

Kristin: Yeah, exactly.

What to Do About Cyber Bullying

Angela: All right. Well, let’s wrap it up. We’ve got one more section to go, and this will kind of be the end here of this podcast but cyber bullying, when you know, taking action. So, we go from morning science to taking action. What are some things that we can do if cyber bullying is happening, or we think it might be happening.

Get Involved

Angela: So, getting involved in your kid or team’s device use or just overall online use. I know you reference the bark monitoring app. There’s, you know, other ones out there, but just making sure that you are involved. You are aware. You don’t have to be the helicopter parent, you know, but be aware and make sure you’re involved.

Kristin: Oh, something I wanted to add to that, too. For the I guess those listeners right now who they don’t have teams yet right? But you’re thinking about getting your child these types of devices sometimes you can be proactive. And there’s all sorts of different like cell phone contracts, media contracts and lots of different ways that you can actually teach your children ahead of time before they get these, what’s appropriate, what’s not appropriate, and also your level of involvement as the parent right? So, we’re going in with you being involved saying, yes, you can have this device, but this is the contract that we’re going to sign that allows me to essentially look at every 3 days, or whatever it is that you want to create between you and your teen. But I think that can be really helpful, too, just to set those expectations ahead of time where you can.

Angela: Yeah, that’s a great point. It’s risky to go in and just hand over that device. That’s a monumental action in your parenting life is to officially give the device. So, yea it needs to come, from our experience, working with so many families and just hearing, you know the consequences of officially handing over devices. Yeah have your expectations, some contracts. It’s interesting. When we talk with parents, and I’ll see. Parents will say things like, well, they’ll get upset, you know, if I take the phone away or they’ll get upset if. I’m like, who’s paying for this cell phone? Who’s paying for the bill? Because whose cell phone is this? It’s yours.

Kristin: Right? Exactly.

Angela: It’s actually your phone. So, you could tell my one of my passions lie on that but again, like we said so, recognizing changes in your child or teams, behavior or device use. Ask questions, ask questions, get involved. Be curious. Don’t be afraid to document or take screenshots, perhaps of an appropriate behavior, inappropriate language that’s used online. So, things are, you know, up there permanently, but we know that some things can’t disappear, or they, you know, supposedly, and might be hard to get them back or recover them so, you know, you might need to take some screenshots.

Report Inappropriate Behavior

Angela: You may need to report some inappropriate behavior to some people. Maybe it’s to the school, to a social media platform, maybe even law enforcement or police. If it’s getting serious facilitating support from friends, your child’s friends, another trusted adult. So, you know, you kind of hear that like community like, it’s a community effort so that’s kind of part of a larger discussion, too, about when you’re raising kids it takes a village. Make sure that you are at least friendly, or you have some sort of relationship with your kid’s friends, or the people they’re hanging out with. So, you have more parents around, just, you know keep an eye on things, make sure things are going smoothly, and that everybody is safe.

Express Concerns to Parents of Bully

Angela: And then if the bully is known to you maybe you do express concerns to the parent and so that goes back to what you mentioned earlier Kristin about, you know maybe ask your child first. It can be a sensitive subject. Do you want me to get involved? And so on? I think there are situations though where, if safety is a big factor you might need to just say, you know what? As a parent, I need to make a decision as the adult and say, Look, this is dangerous. This is not okay. I’m going to get involved. I’m gonna let the parents know and so on. So, you have to kind of make that judgment call and kind of decide when you need to go forward and just to make the make the report if needed.

Kristin: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, I actually just thought of another, this is storytelling day because I thought of another story, and I guess you know we said, 75% of parents are worried about this and we’ve had so many separate stories that we’ve never even shared with each other on this exact topic so, it makes sense that that this is like at the forefront of everyone’s minds. But so, we, my oldest, also plays football and there is power in numbers, because there was this one coach who he plays flag football around here. it’s kind of a big deal, I don’t know if you guys have it near you. It’s like Friday night, you know it’s a big thing. And there was this one coach who had a little guy who was about my son’s age, so 6 or so, and then he also coached his older son’s team, who was the next league up so, he’s probably like 9 or 10. And this coach in particular, we ended up playing them last season in the tournament, and this coach was a bully, and I actually can’t believe that that I could have witnessed an adult bullying children, but he was making fun of his own child who was the quarterback on his team, saying, like, you’re a disgrace to me. all sorts of stuff, he was saying, and then he was what now? Haggling right? No, heckling, I will get it right one of these days, our team. So, the boys now, my, my kid, is 6, and the kids on our team are 5, 6, and 7. And when the kids on our team would drop the ball he would make fun of them like laugh at and clap his hand like laugh at our kids. So, this was our first interaction with this coach, but apparently it was the talk of the town, and all these parents came together and on one of the platforms everyone basically signed a petition to have this guy, not coach anymore. And it actually took a lot of parents complaining about this guy and then he did not coach the next season we just finished the next season, and he did not coach, but apparently they had been trying to get him kicked off of coaching for a couple of seasons, and it just took everyone kind of rallying together and saying, listen, no, we’re not going to tolerate this kind of behavior from this man who’s teaching all of the kids on his team poor sportsmanship and you know, not to mention hurting other kids in the meantime. So yeah, yeah, that’s amazing.

Angela: Yea wow. Well, it’s encouraging to know that parents were not standing by parents actually you know, we’re models. And this sort of behavior is perpetuated we’re not going to stand by that. And I feel like we should do a topic on sportsmanship or just sports in general, because I think that’s across the country just parents, adults getting so enmeshed in their kids’ sports, it’s becoming their social network.

Kristin: Yes.

Angela: They’re getting so involved in kids. You know, they’re, I’ve heard some crazy stories of parents getting kicked off like, Nope, Nope, parents can’t come to the games anymore. It’s just getting out of hand.

Kristin: Yes, yeah, we’re gonna add that to the list of us of our topics. All right. Okay, well, hopefully, you all learned a little something today. This is a good one and a really important topic. So, thank you everyone for joining us on our 37th episode of, Behaviorally Speaking, on our next episode, we will be discussing neurodiversity with a guest. So, until then, don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast on your favorite platform. So, you never miss an episode.

You’ve been listening to Behaviorally Speaking, with Angela Nelson and Kristin Bandi, brought to you by RethinkCare. Find out more at You can find past podcast episodes under the Resources tab. We also invite you to subscribe, follow, like, and leave us feedback wherever you listen to podcasts. Your feedback helps us prepare topics and content for future episodes. Until next time, have a great day.

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