Bullying has escalated to an entirely new level these days, not only in frequency but also in application. With technology being what it is kids can be bullied in many ways, including over the internet, by text message, by a website or the old fashioned way, in person with both verbal and physical abuse.
Even physical violence has been taken to a new level. Years ago the school yard bully would push and shove his victim; today many times weapons are involved. In order to help your child avoid being chosen as a bullies next victim you need to teach them some basic principles of safety.
Many of the same techniques I have taught to adults hold true to children. A bully will look for what they perceive to be an “easy” target. You need to teach your child to be assertive. This can be practiced by showing them how to make eye contact with someone while speaking to them. They should also exhibit good posture and, speak in a loud but calm, clear voice. When walking they need to give off the impression that they are very sure of themselves as well.
Taking strong sure steps and not dragging their feet, looking ahead of them and scanning from side to side as they walk are all signs that they are a confident person who is paying attention to what is going on around then and will likely cause a bully to choose someone else. Teach them to use a technique called “See and Avoid”.
Let them know that if they see something ahead of them that appears to be dangerous, it’s ok to avoid it. They can cross the street, or even turn around and find an alternate route as long as it is safe. If they have no choice but to pass by a potential bullying situation such as in a school hallway, show them ways to pass by out of the reach of the potential bully.
Role Play With Your Child
Demonstrate to your child the fine line between being passive, assertive and aggressive. You can do this by role playing different scenarios with them. Kids actually love to do this and having you involved will make it a more enjoyable way for them to learn.
If your child is unable to avoid a confrontation with a bully, teach them that they need to remain calm. If a confrontation is about to happen and there is no immediate help available, they need to present the same composure I mentioned earlier. Have them stand up tall and place both hands out in front of themselves and tell the bully to STOP in a loud clear voice. They can not be timid when in this situation. If the bully senses fear or weakness it will make the situation worse.
Teach your child about their circle of personal space and not allowing anyone to violate it. If they can look the potential threat in the eye and respond confidently they will be more likely to diffuse the situation long enough to get to an adult for help. This will undoubtedly be the hardest part of teaching your child to be assertive and will need to be practiced repeatedly at home until they develop the confidence necessary to stand up to a bully.
Understand Different Ways a Child can be Bullied
Not all bullies uses physical force or threats. A much more subtle type of bullying involves something called exclusion. Being consistently left out of games or other activities can be very hurtful to a child. If they are telling you that this is happening to them often, your intervention can be crucial and role playing here can be quite beneficial. Have them give you some examples of how other kids are excluding them and then act them out. Have your child practice saying things like “Let me play” or “I want to play”.
Make sure these are said in an assertive and positive manner. There should be no hesitation or whining here. There should also be no aggressive requests. Help them formulate a response that counters what the bully is saying. For example, if your child is excluded because they are “not a good ball player” They can respond with “I will get better if I practice.” A common exclusion tactic is for the bully to say that “there are already too many players”.
The response here can be simply “There is always room for one more”. Make sure your child knows who to go to for help as well as the proper way of telling someone what is happening to them. They need to understand that when explaining the situation to a teacher or other trusted adult they must be clear and most importantly calm. Advise them to be polite, firm as well as persistent and to use the same assertive behavior you have been teaching them all along. Eye contact, body language and especially the tone they use will all help them to convince an adult they are serious.
Avoid Reacting with Violence
Children should be taught that physically fighting is something they should avoid and resort to only after all else has failed and only as a way of defending themselves. It is a last ditch effort when they have exhausted all other options. Your child should know that they should never be the initial aggressor.
There is no one single definition of a bully. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. If your child has become the target of a bully especially in school and has practiced the techniques taught here and still has a problem, the school needs to be notified in writing of what is happening. This should help prevent the school from taking punitive action against your child should a physical altercation take place.
Lastly, it is a good idea for you to provide your child with some form of self defense training. The type and style is up to you but most classes teach assertiveness as well as when hands on action is warranted. Just knowing they are better able to defend themselves will boost your child’s self esteem and confidence levels tremendously.