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Tips to End Bullying – for All Kids

Teaching children tolerance and compassion toward their peers, LGBT or otherwise, starts at home. Here are ways parents can bring the message home.

Incidents of bullying are hard to control, but not impossible to handle. When it comes to our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender kids, Steven Petrow, author of the new book Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners: The Definitive Guide to LGBT Life, has a few pointers for parents on how to handle a troublemaker – and how to stop your kid from becoming one.

What's the best way for a family to handle a bullying situation affecting their child?

It's important for all moms and dads, regardless of their sexual orientation or that of their children, to allow for an open door policy between parent and tween or teen. That means setting expectations early – before any issues arise – about talking together about any form of teasing, harassment or bullying. You don't want your kid to try to handle this by him or herself. If an incident seems like more than a one-off scuffle, then talk to your child's teacher or principal, as well as other parents, about whether the school needs to institute an anti-bullying program.

What can other kids do to help fight anti-gay harassment or bullying?

Lots of things. First off, bullies thrive on isolating individuals perceived to be different or weaker. Stand up for your friends and support them, whether that means walking to and from school with them – or posting really supportive messages on their Facebook walls. Join a gay-straight student alliance. Or help start one: There are now thousands of these school organizations that are dedicated to creating a safe and supportive environment for young people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

What's the big deal about the use of the expression "that's so gay"?

Using "gay" as a synonym for "lame" or "stupid" has become common among kids all the way from middle school to college. Comments like "that sweater is so gay" actually have nothing to do with sexuality per se, and young people often use such language without even being aware of the implied slur. Gay kids, kids perceived to be gay, and straight ones with LGBT parents are most susceptible to these kinds of homophobic messages that can also lay the groundwork for anti-gay bullying – even violence. ThinkB4YouSpeak.com, a great public service campaign featuring Wanda Sykes, is drawing attention to the problem. Check it out.

How can I teach my child to be more respectful to his/her LGBT peers?

Good parenting is about teaching our kids to live by the values we aspire to: tolerance, diversity, respect and self-respect. Don't make these lessons specific to their LGBT peers. Make them universal – and lead by example in your day-to-day life.

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