Last time we discussed how you can help your school deal with bullying. Bullying is not only a systems problem, it is a personal problem. This time, I will focus on how you can help your child avoid being the target of bullies.
You can help your child resist bullying. But you cannot guarantee that they will not be targeted by bullies.
Some factors make bullying more likely. These are not an excuse for bullying, as nothing justifies bullying. Victims of bullying tend to:
- not have close friends in school
- be passive or submissive
So what is a parent to do?
Parents cannot make friends for their children but they can encourage them to make friends at school. Have other kids over to play. Suggest he or she do things with other kids. If you notice him or her behaving in a way that is likely to discourage friends such as not sharing well or being aggressive, have a private talk with them.
Encourage your child to get involved in a sport or club where he or she will meet others. Bullies pick on kids who are alone, so encourage your child to stay with friends at school.
When children are passive or submissive, they signal to bullies that they will not stand up for themselves if harassed. You can teach passive or submissive children to stand up for themselves. There are several strategies:
- Teach your child to tell an adult. Many children are afraid to tell an adult if they are bullied. Keeping bullying secret gives the bully power. Practice with your child who to tell and how to tell about a bully at school. Sometimes it is easier taking a friend when reporting a bully. Emphasize that it is not being a “tattle tale” to tell an adult. It is part of keeping the school safe for everyone.
- Teach your child to stand up to bullies when it is safe to do so. It can be as simple as saying something like “Cut it out, Tim” in a calm and firm voice and then walking away.
- Have him or her learn self defence skills. Learning Tai Kwon Do, Judo or some other marital art can help boost self esteem and strength. All reputable teachers of these sports emphasize not to use these skills to bully others. If your child uses more than self defence, he or she may be in trouble with the school or even with the law.
Make sure that your child:
- knows it is not their fault if they are bullied.
- does not avoid going to school, clubs or sports because of fear of being bullied.
- does not support bullies. Laughing when a bully ridicules, encouraging gossip about other kids, or abandoning someone being bullied is not OK.