Dealing with Teasing and Bullying

Teasing, bullying, and their sometimes deadly consequences are in the news a lot lately. Parents of all children, especially those with hearing loss, have good reason to be concerned about this troubling phenomenon. How can we help keep our children safe, confident, and bully-proof for life? A comprehensive anti-bullying approach includes interventions that help children before, during, and after incidents of teasing and/or bullying occur.

1198061_17336823Before bullying becomes an issue, build up your child’s defenses against the behavior by giving him a foundation of solid self-esteem. For children with hearing loss, the issue of being deaf or hard of hearing can be as big — or as little — as you make it in your home. If “deaf” is a dirty word or hearing aids are something to be covered up or hidden, why wouldn’t your child think that this is a shameful part of himself? Instead, teach age-appropriate, simple, neutral language to help your child self-advocate and explain his hearing loss to peers. A simple, “These are my cochlear implants. They help me hear just like glasses help people to see,” is usually sufficient to stop peers’ curious stares. Model these behaviors for your child until he is able to take over the advocating and educating for himself. Encourage peer relationships and engage your child in activities in and out of school where he can be successful and build strong friendships. If a child goes into a potential bullying situations feeling good about his hearing loss, having the language to explain it, and friends to back him up, half of the battle is already won.


No matter how well-prepared your child is, though, bullying may still happen. Prepare your child for the moment of bullying by teaching and practicing a variety of bully-proof responses. Some ways to respond to teasing include:


  • A firm and assertive response, like, “Stop that!” or, “Go away!”


  • A neutral response, like, “Yeah, I am deaf. It’s just the way I was born.”


  • A negation of the hurtful statment. For example, if a bully tells the child, “You are so stupid because you’re deaf!” she could respond, “Actually, I’m really smart. But it’s okay, we all make mistakes.” This response makes the bully, not the bullied, look like the ignorant one.


  • A humerous response, like, “Actually, these processors help me connect to headquarters for my secret spy mission. But don’t tell anyone, because it’s top secret!”


  • An agreeing response. Bullies don’t expect their victims to agree. Teach your child to trip up a bully who says something hurtful like, “You talk funny,” by saying, “I know, right?”


  • A response that turns the child’s weakness into a strength, such as, “I know, sometimes I can’t hear a thing… especially when my mom tells me to clean my room!”


  • A response that shows the child has support, like, “I’m sorry you think that. My friends on the soccer team certainly don’t. Your loss, I guess.”


  • A response that makes the conversation about the bully, not the bullied, like, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” or, “It’s too bad you choose to talk to people like that.”


  • An ignoring response. Sometimes, “Sorry, I didn’t hear you,” is a perfectly okay white lie!


In the heat of the moment, it may be difficult for your child to summon up one (or many) of these responses to combat a bully. Practice various scenarios at home until your child feels confident that he or she has a bag of tricks to pull out if, and when, teasing occurs.


After a teasing incident, when you’ve been made aware that your child has been bullied, gather information and talk it over together. Remind your child that he has many resources — supportive friends and safe adults — who are willing to help him during difficult times. Do not hesitate to involve teachers, coaches, or school personnel. Bullying is serious business, and many schools have incorporated anti-bullying policies into their procedures. Work with your child’s teacher to build positive peer relationships — he or she may be able to identify other children in the class who may serve as good friends for your child, or connect you to community resources or activities in which your child can meet friends and gain self-esteem. Your child’s school and teacher can also take steps to become an inclusive environment, benefitting not only your child with hearing loss, but all students in the school.  Let children know that they have value, and that it is never acceptable for another child — or adult — to make them feel uncomfortable or threatened for any reason.

Other great resoureces on bullying include:








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