Learning that your child is the victim of bullying is an experience that’s simultaneously heartbreaking and infuriating. While your first instinct is to step in to stop the torment by any means necessary, it’s not always easy to see the bigger picture and pick up on the lessons that your child could learn from this difficult experience. Rather than making a point of angrily confronting another parent or teaching your child to strike back in order to defend herself, you might want to consider ways to help your child stand up to a bully on her own.
Practice Reasonable Avoidance
It may seem counter-intuitive, but one of the most effective ways of standing up to a bully is to cut bullying attempts off at the knees. Talk to your child about ways that she could reasonably avoid the bully without resorting to damaging measures like skipping class or quitting the team. You may find by working together that just a few adjustments in your little one’s routine helps her avoid crossing the bully’s path altogether.
Emphasize the Importance of Confidence
Bullies tend to pick on kids that they perceive to be weaker than themselves, so make sure you work on confidence-boosting techniques and help your child understand why it’s important to appear very confident. Let her know that when it comes to self-esteem, it’s okay to “fake it until you make it.” Talk about ways she can appear more confident, even if she doesn’t quite feel that way yet. When she projects more confidence and bullies start to back down, her self-esteem level will actually rise.
Explain Why Some Kids are Bullies
In order to know how to stand up to a bully, kids need to understand why they’re a target in the first place. Having a conversation about the things that make some kids turn to bullying behaviors and why making other people feel bad can make him feel better may help your child to realize that the torment she’s enduring might not even really be about her. Let your child know that some bullies are mean to other kids because they’re bullied at home, or because they have big insecurities that affect the way they treat people. When your child understands that the root of the problem lies within the bully and not anything she’s done, it’s easier for her to regain the confidence she’ll need to stand up to her tormentor.
Talk to School Administrators and Teachers
So much emphasis is placed on not “snitching” that kids don’t always feel comfortable approaching an adult at school about the bullying they’re suffering from at the hands of another student. Your child needs to know that there’s a difference between being a tattle-tale that looks for attention by exposing others and asking a teacher or administrator for help when there’s a problem that’s too big for her to handle on her own.
Use the Buddy System
Bullies tend to target kids that are alone, so encourage your child to find a friend that’s also being troubled by bullies and use the buddy system. The fact that they’re both victims of cruelty from their peers can help the two children form a bond while also successfully standing up to the people that torment them by presenting a united front.
Don’t Reward the Bully With a Reaction
Above all, a bully is looking for a reaction to his cruelty. Teaching your child that bullies are looking for any kind of reaction in order to feel fulfilled can help her understand that sometimes, the best defense is a studied air of nonchalance. Standing up to a bully by living well and being utterly unaffected by the things he says may not have a dramatic resolution, but it does solve the problem in most cases and ends the suffering your child feels.
Don’t Bully Back
Everyone has their breaking point, even a child. Before you start working on any other methods of combating a bully, you should make sure your child knows that any reciprocity on her end will not be tolerated. That means no hitting, striking or otherwise engaging a bully with violence or resorting to the same hurtful, hateful name-calling that the bully is so fond of. Aside from the fact that such actions generally tend to fuel a bully’s anger, zero-tolerance policies in schools can leave your child in big trouble for her actions, even if she feels they were taken in self-defense.
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Learn more about bullying prevention from Parenting Expert, Dr. Michele Borba.