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How to Help Your Child Deal with Name Calling

Name calling is a form of bullying. Children need help with knowing how to deal with this situation.

Name calling as a form of bullying has been around a long time. Do you remember that old rhyme your parents probably taught you when you were called names a child?

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

This advice is just as true now as it ever was. Most people have probably suffered name calling at some stage in their lives and have possibly even been the one to throw the names at some stage. Name calling is an unfortunate, but vicious, fact of a child’s life and whether it happens in the school playground or in your own home, children need to learn how to deal with it.

When children arrive home feeling miserable, ask what is wrong. Listen carefully to them and show you understand how they are feeling. It’s important at this stage to get them to identify exactly what the problem is and how it can be dealt with.

Ask your child why they think the bully is calling them such a name. When and where are the incidents usually happening? Remind them that just because another child calls them something, that doesn’t mean it’s true. Help them identify all the good things about themselves, their strengths, both in personality and achievements. It’s important for a child to have a good self esteem if you want them to survive the name calling episodes.

Next come up with some ideas together on how he or she could deal with the situation next time. Simply saying “Stop it, I don’t like it,” is a starting point, but usually not enough on its own. One idea is to ignore, or walk away. This is not always an easy thing for a child to do and you will have to talk them through the way to go about it. But, explain that when a bully gets no reaction, they usually tire of their actions and go and look for another victim.

Teach your child the little rhyme above, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.’ If you can help your children really believe this, there will be enough power in its utterance to annoy the name calling bully. Or maybe they can say something unexpected, such as laughing and saying, “Hey, that’s a cute name, what do kids call you?” This will take the name caller by surprise. However, you will need to work with your child to give them the confidence to behave in such a positive way.

There may be other ways children can come up with to help themselves. Often schools have classroom programmes dealing with how to cope with name calling. If all else fails children need to know they can go to a teacher and ask for help as a last resort. It is certainly better for them if they can deal with it themselves first before this stage is reached.

Once you’ve talked through a number of ways that name calling episode can be dealt with, encourage your child to role play the situation. This gives them confidence when they have to use the tactics as they’ve already rehearsed them. You can be the victim at first and encourage your child to call you names. React in one of the ways you’ve discussed together. Then swap roles, with your child being the victim and you the bully.

It is important to not ignore name calling bullying, but to help your child deal with it in a positive way. Hopefully some of these ideas will be helpful next time the situation arises in your family.

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User Comments
  1. MartineP

    On April 10, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Sad but true. I was called many names and never really got bullies. Nobody asked me how I felt about it.

  2. Lord Banks

    On April 10, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Children are so cruel they will never change. Good tips. LB

  3. Sharif Ishnin

    On April 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I realized that not overreacting to name calling can actually help solve the problem. Name calling is done just to annoy the intended person. If the person do not seem to be annoyed by it, the name calling eventually stops.What you suggested is true Val.

  4. Christine Ramsay

    On April 10, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    This is very good advice. This is very similar to the way we dealt with bullying and name calling at school when I was teaching. The role play helps a lot.


  5. Frances Lawrence

    On April 10, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Very good advice, name calling can be very hurtful.

  6. giftarist

    On April 10, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Those bullies need discipline, but also I think bullies are part of childhood life. Good points!

  7. PR Mace

    On April 10, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    All i can say is this is outstanding. A much needed article. My son was bullied at school because of his buck teeth. He had to be a certain age before he could get braces. He was called woodchuck and it hurt his feelings so much but he was able to get passed it but so many children can’t. I was always the fat kid at school.

  8. Karen Gross

    On April 10, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Children can be so cruel. They don’t understand how deep and long lasting the wounds they are inflicting can be. When I was teaching, I told the students that that old rhyme was wrong. Sticks and stones cause physical wounds, which usually heal. Words can cause emotional wounds, which cut deeper and are more difficult to heal.

  9. Shirley Shuler

    On April 10, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    This is an excellent article, Val with some great advice!

  10. Valerie Taylor

    On January 11, 2013 at 11:57 am

    We are going to talk about this this weekend. My son has gotten to be quite the tattler & I want him to try to handle this before running straight to me or to the teacher/parent. Thanks for the advice.

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