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9 Ways Kids Can Defend Themselves Against Bullies

How to prepare kids for dealing with bullying

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Updated June 12, 2014

Children playing in park
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If your children have been victims of bullying, you may be asking yourself, “why do bullies target them?” While there is no single answer to this question, it is true that sometimes bullies target other kids simply because they look like an unaware or unprepared target. This is where self-defense techniques come in.

When most people think of self-defense, they think of hitting back or using karate. But a large part of self-defense has nothing to do with hitting or striking another person. It involves being aware of your surroundings, listening to your gut, leaving before a problem erupts, using a confident voice and carrying yourself with confidence.

Here are nine ways you can teach your kids to defend themselves against school bullies.

Use confident body language. One of the best ways to prevent bullying is to be sure your children have a healthy self-esteem and carry themselves with confidence. Being self-confident involves having good posture, walking with a purpose and making eye contact with those around them. By contrast, if children slouch and keep their eyes averted, this makes them a target for bullying. Be sure to work with your children on these techniques. And remind them that even when they do not feel confident, like walking into a crowded lunchroom for the first time, they should walk like they do have confidence.

Stay in a group. Bullies are less likely to target someone who is with a group of friends. Be sure your child knows that it is best to go places in groups, especially into bullying hot spots at school. If your child does not have a group of friends, work with him to develop friends. Friendship is a protective factor against bullying. Even having just one close friend can go a long way in preventing bullying.

Trust your gut. Teach your kids to be aware of their surroundings. For instance, teach them to put their cell phones away and to look around them. Is there a group of rough-looking boys on the corner? Is there a strange car at the bus stop? Being aware of what’s going on around them, not only will help protect your child from bullying, but it's also an important life skill. Looking around and noticing what is happening can help them avoid being mugged or attacked as an adult as well.

Focus on flight, not fight. Too many times, kids don’t realize that when things look like they could head the wrong direction, that they should just turn around and walk away. Stress that it is not cowardly to walk away. Instead, remind them that it takes courage to walk away from a situation that is escalating. It is best if your children leave a situation before it even gets out of hand. Remind them that trusting their instincts is essential in identifying when a situation is about to take a turn for the worse.

Use a strong voice. If your child does find himself in a potential bullying situation, sometimes using a confident voice and being assertive will diffuse the situation. Many times, bullies are looking for an easy target. And a strong confident voice will sometimes cause bullies to back off. Have your children practice speaking assertively and in a strong voice so that when they are in a difficult situation, it will come naturally.

Keep your eyes on the exit. Sometimes kids will get into a situation where they can’t walk away immediately. Maybe their path is blocked or they feel it isn’t safe to make a run for it. In this case, they should still look for an exit and when the opportunity presents itself, make a break for it. Remind them that it is not a sign of weakness to run from a bully. In fact, it takes courage and strength.

Attract attention. Make sure your kids know that it is acceptable and encouraged to make a lot of noise if someone is threatening them or hurting them. Not only should they be using a strong voice, but they also can yell or scream. The idea is to scare off a bully by attracting a lot of attention to the situation. This tactic also is important if the child is being attacked by a stranger during an attempted abduction. Being quiet is never a good idea.

Take a self-defense class. Sometimes the best route for teaching your children how to defend themselves is to enroll them in a self-defense class. For instance, the American Taekwondo Association offers a number of options geared specifically for children. Kids will not only learn how to defend themselves, but they also will learn confidence and self-control. Many times, diffusing bullying situations involves knowing how to respond to a situation in a calm and confident manner before it ever gets to physical bullying.

Use self-defense techniques. Although it is never a good idea to encourage your child to fight, there are certain self-defense techniques they can use to protect themselves when attacked. For instance, there are techniques for blocking a punch that is thrown at them. There are also techniques for removing a bully’s fingers from their wrists as well as techniques on how to get free when being restrained. And there are techniques on how they can defend themselves from a group attack. All these techniques can be learned in a self-defense class.

Remember, when teaching your kids about self-defense against bullies, it is best to encourage them to diffuse the situation by using a strong voice or walking away. Also, be sure to check with your school district on their policies about self-defense. Some schools have a zero tolerance policy and will suspend both the bully and the victim when there is a physical bullying situation. Be sure you know what the potential outcome will be for your children when they defend themselves.

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