Bullying is a fact of life that plagues every school in the country. And while much is being done to eradicate bullying and improve school climates, bullying will never be completely eliminated. As a result, it is important for parents and educators to impart skills that will keep kids from being targeted.
In fact, research has shown that most kids can learn skills to make themselves less likely to be targeted by bullies. Here are the top eight things kids need to learn in order to avoid school bullies.
Appear confident. Bullies feed on the body language of insecurity, fear and low self-esteem. How a victim responds, how they hold their head, whether they stand tall or are slumped, even tone of voice can signal to a bully that a kid might make an easy target. Teaching kids to appear confident physically is sometimes easier than teaching them to tell the bully to stop or to have a witty comeback. Some kids just do not have an assertive bone in their body and if they try to stand up to a bully verbally, it can fail.
Make eye contact. Teach your child to give a bully firm eye contact and send a non-verbal message that says "knock it off." Remember, eye contact communicates self-confidence and self-esteem. And bullies are more likely to back off if a potential target looks them right in the eye. Typically, bullies are looking for targets that are anxious, insecure and more likely to look down or avoid eye contact. Teach your child not to be that person.
Don’t embrace victim thinking. When your child holds onto a feeling of injustice, he will begin to chronically feel like a victim. Remember, if your child feels like a victim, he will act like a victim. If kids stay in this place, they will begin to see the world as an unjust and unfair place. Be sure your child knows that being a victim of bullying doesn’t define who he is as a person. Also, when another person hurts your child, don’t get emotionally pulled into how badly your son feels. Instead of commiserating, help him find ways to move out of a painful situation and get through it.
Be assertive. Make sure your kids know the difference between aggressive behavior and assertive behavior. For instance, assertive people stand up for their rights and are comfortable defending themselves or others against unfairness. They use a strong and confident voice to get their point across in a respectful manner. Meanwhile, an aggressive person uses control, intimidation and yelling to get their way. Be sure your kids know that it’s acceptable to tell someone no or ask them to stop.
Build self-esteem. Self-esteem is a core component of bullying prevention. Kids with a healthy self-esteem are more confident and capable. Self-esteem also can help prevent bullying. Bullies are often looking for an easy target – someone who will react to their taunts and teases. As a result, they often steer clear of kids that are comfortable in their own skin. Even if they are targeted by bullies kids with a healthy self-esteem have an easier time coping with the bullying.
Nurture friendships. Bullies seek out kids who lack connections or who are isolated. Meanwhile, kids who have friends are less likely to be bullied than those who are alone. Even one significant friend at school can greatly reduce the likelihood that your child will be bullied. And even if your children are still targeted by bullies, having friends will make it easier for them to overcome bullying if it does occur.
Be aware of bullying zones. Make sure your kids are aware of the fact that there are zones at school where bullying is more likely to occur. These areas might include the locker room, the bathrooms, the lunchroom, the playground or the school bus. Even a remote hallway with very little adult presence may be a prime spot for bullying. Try to help your child identify and think about these places. Then, brainstorm together how these areas might become safer or be avoided all together. For instance, encourage your child to travel with a buddy or two. Another option is to sit near the front of the school bus and stay in the highly visible areas during recess. Bullies tend to strike when they know adults aren’t around. So the key to avoiding a known bully is to try to avoid being in that area alone with a bully.
Put responsibility for bullying where it belongs. Most of the time, kids tend to blame themselves when they are bullied. The falsely believe they did something to cause it or that something is wrong with them. As a result, victims often don’t tell anyone about the bullying and try to change how they look or act in order to avoid being bullying. Instead, teach kids that bullying is a choice made by the bully. And, the bully is completely responsible for his actions. No one caused him to behave that way including your child.