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Bullied: What to Say (and NOT Say) to Kids in the Crosshairs

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Unfortunately, being bullied is a common childhood experience. Discover helpful tips about what to say and not say to children who face that challenge.

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

When Children Are Bullied, 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. The child may already be acting as “tough” as possible. Teach kids to advocate for themselves by talking to a trusted adult before the situation escalates.

“God will always protect you from pain.”

Although God does protect us, sometimes he allows difficult things to happen. And we can learn and grow from these things. So pray with children for strength.

“You need to learn to fight back.”

Encouraging a child to use physical force (kicking, hitting, or pushing) to deal with a bully often makes matters worse. It just adds 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 peers are more painful than a broken bone and carry long-term impact.

When Children Are Bullied, DO say…

“You did the right thing by telling me.”

First off, 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 tough situation.

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

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