Creative Child

Teaching Children to Be Noticers and Includers

by Rebecca Eanes


The Fallout

Relational bullying damages self-worth. It affects a child’s self-concept, and children with low self-esteem have more behavioral problems. They may lash out at siblings, parents, or peers. They are then labeled as trouble-makers, further fueling the belief that they are “bad” and continuing the cycle of acting out. Other children turn the hurt inward. They become anxious or depressed. They may withdraw from family members or friends. Learning is impaired because learning best happens in the context of connection and safety. Both aggressors and victims are at risk for early drug and alcohol use and even eating disorders or, in extreme cases, suicide.

What Can Parents Do?

1. Heal the hurt. When you become aware that your child has been bullied in this way, the first thing to do is heal the hurt caused by it. Listening to your child with an empathetic ear will go a long way in easing the pain. Show them you understand by sharing your own stories. Build up their self-worth with kind and encouraging words every day to offset whatever negative stuff they may be hearing at school, on the field, or elsewhere. Never demean, bully, or isolate them in an effort to discipline them, build sibling relationships, and create a culture of inclusion and peace inside your home.

2. Talk to your children about what relational bullying is and how to handle it. Empower them with responses using “I” statements. “I feel hurt when you ignore me because I thought we were friends.” You may want to role-play several scenarios with your child so that he or she gets comfortable with being assertive.


3. Teach your child to be a noticer and an includer. Point out the child swinging alone at the park. Ask your kid to invite the lonely child to play. Talk about how to be on the lookout for people who are sad, lonely, or being left out and how to initiate a conversation with them. Also coach them on being aware of the people around them and how their actions may affect others. Sometimes children aren’t excluded because someone is being mean but simply because they get wrapped up in playing with their own close friends and they don’t notice who isn’t getting a turn or who is being ignored.

4. Teach your child positive friendship skills so that they can form social connections will help act as a buffer against bullying.


Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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