There’s a good reason that one of parents biggest fears when they send their kids off to school is bullying - recent statistics show that one in every three kids gets bullied, and the phenomenon isn’t slowing down.
Most parents believe that bullying includes only two parties. There is the bully, and the one getting bullied. But there is often a third, especially in schools - the bystander, and they might be the secret to finally ending bullying.
Schools have instituted zero tolerance policies, and in some extreme cases, involved the authorities and criminal penalties, but they might not be the most effective way to protect our children.
Instead, we need to empower our children to stand up to bullying. We need to teach them how to defend both themselves and others. We need to teach our kids to be assertive, protective, and to know how to properly react when bullying occurs. The best offense is a good defense, right?
School can be a tough place for kids. Other children can be brutal. They often don’t know the difference between right and wrong, and don’t understand the long term impact of their actions. That’s why if we want to effectively prevent bullying, we have to teach kids how to effectively stand up to bullies, explain the impact of their actions, and create a positive environment for the entire student body.
Parents are able to begin teaching their children to take action and stand up to bullies with these 10 tips.
Model Respectful And Compassionate Relationships
Let’s start with the basics. If children are accustomed to having their world respected, then they will be able to easily identify when they are being disrespected, and will do what they need to change it.
The most effective way to prevent children from being bullied, and even from becoming bullies, is by making sure they grow up with loving, respectful relationships where their freedom, privacy, and independence is respected.
Children learn their most basic interpersonal skills from their parents, and if parents are overly reliant on using power or force to control their children, then the children will learn that power and force are the way to handle interpersonal problems. Research has repeatedly proven that physically disciplining a child is associated with bullying behavior.
Children interpret punishment as parents using force to get their way. That teaches children that bullying is OK. Instead, psychologists recommend positive parenting and discipline to set firm boundaries while still maintaining the respect and love that parent-child relationships need in order to thrive.
Teach Your Child To Be Assertive
Bullies prey on easy victims. The more a bully thinks that they can pick on a victim without being confronted, the more they will do it. It’s why being assertive is such an effective counter-bullying tactic. The goal is to teach children how to master communicating in an assertive manner, without resorting to aggressive comebacks that might increase the tension or a passive response that will lead to further abuse.
Role Play Bullying Scenarios
Successfully confronting bullying is a skill just like any other. Kids can learn it with practice. Role play different scenarios with your child so that they can practice their responses. It’s important to point out the dynamics of bullying in the process so that kids can learn to deescalate scenarios instead of giving bullies the feeling of power that they’re looking for.
Point out to your child that the bully is looking for a response that makes them feel powerful. Fighting back or reacting emotionally just makes it worse. Explain to your child that they can’t control the bully, but they can control their own reaction, and they have a choice between reactions that inflame the situation, or those that defuse it.
Teach Kids To Intervene When They See Bullying
No one is better at stopping bullying than other kids. According to bullying experts, when kids nearby intervene correctly, they successfully stop the bullying more than half the time! Bullying is often based on social validation, and if other kids oppose the bullies behavior, it can stop the mistreatment.
Experts recommend that kids physically stand with the victim, turn them away from the bully, and walk with them in a different direction. Children can also assertively confront the bully, get the other kids on their side, and then walk away with the victim.
Of course, in extreme scenarios, it’s still important for children to involve adults, but kids should know that their intervention can often make a dramatic difference.
Teach Kids To Watch Out For Others
Teach your kids to watch out for others from a young age and to stick up for them if anyone is be unfriendly. If your child sees a classmate, a friend, or other kids being picked on, or being excluded from group activities, encourage them to do something about it and to make sure that everyone is treated fairly.
Teach Children The Difference Between Tattling And Reporting
In school, children are often scared of getting adults involved because they don’t want to be labeled as a tattle-tale and risk facing social exclusion. But when it comes to bullying, it’s important that kids understand the difference between tattling and reporting. Bullies thrive off of making their victims feel isolated, and reporting the incident to adults helps rebalance the power dynamic.
Explain to your child that while tattling and reporting might look similar, in reality they couldn’t be more different. Tattling is when you tell on someone because you hope it’ll get them in trouble. Reporting is when you tell someone to try to get someone else out of trouble.
Make Sure That Your Children Know When To Seek Help From Adults
Kids often develop a “Code of Silence” as they get older, but in extreme bullying cases, especially when it is aggressive, harmful, and physical, it’s important that adults be involved. Role play different scenarios with your kids and ask them if it would be better to involve an adult, or attempt to handle it themselves. This way, if they are confronted with the choice in real life, they’ll be prepared to make the right decision.
Teach Kids The Importance Of Including Others
Bullies pick on kids that are isolated and alone. It makes them feel powerful. Raise your kids to reach out and include kids that play by themselves or that don’t have many friends. Something as easy as eating lunch with them, or walking together to class can help prevent them from becoming a target.
Teach Kids To Use Simple, Unemotional Language
When a kid uses simple, unemotional, and direct language, it lets the bully know that they do not intend to be victimized. When a child responds with confidence instead of anger or fear, the bully detects less potential for control and often backs off.
Teach Children How To Use Strong Body Language
Over 70% of communication is nonverbal, so it’s helpful for children to practice using strong body language to back up their words. Some simple strategies are maintaining strong eye contact, using a calm and even tone of voice, standing an appropriate distance from the bully, and using their name when addressing them. It’s important to point out to your children that raising their voice, looking away, or shrinking away let the bully know that whatever they are doing is working.