How do I protect my kids from school bullies?

Published on August 23, 2023

,Dear Mattsons, 

How do I protect my kids from school bullies?

Mama and Papa bear

That is right, Mama and Papa Bear, you want to protect your kids from bullies. And yet the reality is, our greatest defense against bullies is building up our child’s confidence and sense of identity. 

So, start with what you are doing with your child at home. Affirm who they are, remind them that nobody gets to decide their value and worth outside of God. A part of affirming that your child is worthy, valuable, and loved, and that anybody who says anything about them, apart from God, does not count. 

We do a lot of that daily with our kids. We talk about who they are, their contributions to the family, their talents, the things that we love. And we delight in them, especially within our family systems. This is a way of helping them to recognize the voice of God, and to remind them that they have a whole team of people cheering them on. 

So, when that bully comes, they are going to have a strong defense, and be able to recognize the difference. 

And we really cannot control the bullies in the world. One thing that is important to help our kids remember is that hurting people hurt people. Bullies are just people that had something happen in their lives and they are perpetuating hurt to others. 

Christ calls us to have a compassionate view as to what might be going on in their story, and that they are hurting as well. Giving that frame of mind to our kids helps them have compassion for those that are hurting them. Again not validating the behavior in any way, bullying is wrong. Being strong and standing up and doing the right things about those pieces are important.  

But at the same time, having compassion, understanding that, the bully is just a hurting person. 

So, we are doing the both end of building up our child’s confidence. We want to do role play with our kids to be able to help them understand what it looks like in real life. You can do this with a kindergartener, you can do this with a 7th grader, and you can even do this with your high schoolers. 

You are working through life and the various kinds of boys, and boys come in lots of different shapes and sizes. Sometimes they are teachers, a lot of times they are peers. But when it happens, we want to be able to practice with our kids, so we do role play. 

You can use movies and shows, pausing something and going, “Did you see what just happened? That was a bully. Look, what they just did. They spoke up.” 

But that practice and role play, I do this a lot with our daughters, and I know you do too Jeff, but bullying isn’t over bullying, but it is the mean girl syndrome. You know those snarky comments, those tear downs, the girls who are jealous and who are, you know, trying to make you look dumb in front of others. 

That could be a lot of our story with our girls. We are practicing how do you still respect them but stand up for yourself. You are taking the power away from a bully when a bully is not getting the reaction from you. When you are not crying or getting angry or overly impacted, you take the power out and a bully is going to move on. 

We are practicing that with our daughters, giving them language, and so some of the language might be as simple as, “You know what? You do not speak to me like that,” and walk away or, “Sorry, you feel that way,” and you walk away. 

But there is not a lot of her reaction, so we are trying to keep that calm and then we are asking our kids to go practice. Talking to a safe adult, get the teacher involved. Come talk to us. Maybe even grab a buddy system and grab a friend. 

Talk a little bit about red light, green light, yellow light. 

Let’s do that. It’s a framework we’ve talked about in other Dear Mattsons videos, but this is actually a great time to talk about that and remind you for those who haven’t listened before, red light, green light, yellow light is A-frame of reference for children to learn who is safe in their world and how do we deal with different types of relationships. 

We are not labeling people, but we are describing the behaviors that happen between. So, a green light friend or person is someone who you have a safe relationship with. You are going to have bad days, you know, you might get snarky with each other if you are grumpy, but you ask forgiveness. You talk about things. And you really work hard to stay as kind and safer friend. 

The yellow light people, those are the people we are more cautious with. So, when you think of a traffic light, you are going to slow down when you go through a yellow light, the same as with yellow light friends. These are the friends, or sometimes the bullies who were in a rough season of life and they are trying to pick on us, some days they are our friends and the next day they are picking on us. 

The yellow light friends are the ones who are confusing, they are not consistent, and they do things to hurt us, and they say I’m sorry, but they do not really mean it and there is not a lot of change in behavior. 

And then finally, the red light friend. 

Yeah, they’re not friends. They are ones that would be more the bully type scenarios. There is no trust, they are not people that you want to invest heart and relationship and trust with because they do not handle that. In fact, that is where we need to coach our kids to have healthy boundaries. 

And to realize that love does have limits. And you do not want to give your best to those that are going to trash it. 

So, that framework of red, yellow, and green is helpful for helping kids to understand what kind of person they are dealing with. That is doing this in the conversations that you are using as a parent to explore with them and how to respond and what that looks like. 

We must be active and engaged with our kids in these conversations. I mean, it is amazing when your child comes to you, no matter what their age might be, and you can tell that something is changed in them, and you that you can talk with them. 

I’ve noticed after school that every time something has changed, if you can open that door, you can ask them an important question, “Is this a relationship? Is this a situation where you need some help?” 

As you are turning towards them, brainstorm together what that kind of help looks like. And sometimes that means adults need to talk to adults about what’s going on. 

A child cannot even comprehend what to do next, your relationship is so important in these moments.  

We cannot predict when bullies are going to show up, right? What we can do is set the foundation of talking, connecting and staying attuned to their days.

Make sure that if you have a daughter, you check out our Helping Moms Raise Confident Daughters courses. We are talking about all the foundational pieces that we are throwing out to you today at a slow and steady pace over time with these conversations between moms and daughters. 

Visit to learn more about these courses and really helping our kids with bullies. 

It is a part of life but recognizing that they do not have to be a victim, that they can be a part of helping. Shift to the current not only for themselves, but also for that bully. And there are a lot of opportunities to grow in connection with our kids as we help them find their voice, their sense of confidence, and their ability to discern healthy relationships through red light, green light and yellow light. So, remember you are the right parent for the job and we are here cheering you on. 

To get parenting advice for things you might be dealing with, checkout the Dear Mattsons playlist on YouTube!

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Jeff and Terra Mattson

Jeff Mattson (MA ORL) and Terra Mattson (MA LPC, LMFT) are Christian Parenting spokespeople and the co-hosts of the Living Wholehearted Podcast in the Christian Parenting Podcast Network.


After two decades studying and working in leadership and trauma-informed therapy, Jeff and Terra are bridging the gap between Biblical, clinical, and relational wisdom to help leaders live with integrity in the home, work, and community.


They are the co-founders of Living Wholehearted, a professional counseling and organizational development firm. Terra is the author of Courageous: Being Daughters Rooted in Grace and together they co-authored Shrinking the Integrity Gap: Between what Leaders Preach and Live. Jeff and Terra have skin in the game as they raise their two daughters just outside Portland, OR on five acres of old growth woods. There is never a dull moment in the Mattson home!

Read more about Jeff and Terra

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