There is a lot of information about what you should do if your child is bullied. There’s also a lot of information about how parents can lessen the risk of bullying for their children. Problem is, much of this information is so conflicting that it is not always easy to know what to do.
We now know that strategies such as calling a bully out do not necessarily stop bullying. Worse, they can even increase bullying behavior. It does not help that evidence now shows that much of the advice given to bullied kids – for instance “pretend you don’t care” or “ask them to stop” -, is often ineffective.
The available evidence suggests that those who are different from the group are the most common bullying targets. The problem is, there are so many ways to define “different” that practically everyone can become a target. There is bad news – there is no guarantee that bully-proofing your child works; but there is also good news – experts now suggest that some strategies can help reduce the chances of your kid getting bullied.
Here are some of the strategies experts propose to bully-proof your kid
1 | Encourage your child to ask for help
Stan Davis, the bullying expert, suggests that encouraging your child to ask for help is more effective than telling her to ask the bullies to stop. Working alongside Charisse Nixon, David interviewed 13,000 kids within the framework of the “Youth Voice Project.” Their results showed that the most effective actions when your child encounters a bully include
• Asking parents for help,
• Asking other students for help, and
• Asking adults at school for help.
According to Davis, kids who ask for help receive support and encouragement which makes it easier to deal with the situation. Whether or not your child is a victim of bullying, talking about bullying is important. It is also important to let him know that he should not be embarrassed about being bullied, and that asking for help is a sign of strength. Remember that improving how you communicate with your kid will make it more likely for her to come to you when she needs your help.
2 | Promote positive body language
The parenting expert Michele Borba suggests that when your child is perceived as confident, he is less likely to be bullied. In other words, how your child is perceived by others matters and can determine whether or not he will be bullied.
According to Dr Borba, children can be taught to act confident as early as age three. She suggests that you should teach your child to look into their friends’ eyes when they’re talking to them. Practicing this behavior will help them learn to display a confident disposition if they encounter a bully. She also proposes teaching your child to practice making different faces (sad, brave, etc.) and telling them to put on their “brave” face when they encounter a bully.
3 | Work on establishing a positive child-parent relationship
Several researchers analyzed the impact of children’s social context on their behavior. They found that when kids were raised in positive environments, they were less likely to be bullied or to become bullies themselves.
Children raised in families where physical violence was common were more likely to display bullying behavior or to accept bullying. The researchers also found that children raised in authoritarian environments were more likely to consider that it was legitimate to use force to obtain what they sought and were thus more likely to view bullying as acceptable.
Positive child-parent relationships help build resilience. Strategies such as establishing family traditions may help encourage family bonding, which in turn makes it easier for families to weather the storms of life. While no perfect family exists, strong families have similar characteristics.
4 | Speak up!
The available evidence suggests that one of the most effective ways to put a stop to bullying is to foster a positive climate in school. Reduced bullying has been reported in schools in which kids are taught about bullying and about speaking up for the bullied.
It is important to speak up if your kid is bullied. Ask the school about its bullying philosophy. Let the school know you mean business. It is one thing for schools to say that they “take bullying very seriously.” How they put this into practice is quite another.
A positive school climate requires everyone to work together toward building a “no-bully environment.”
5 | Help your child envision how she can respond to bullies
Dr Borba suggests that practicing how to respond to a bully can help your child feel better prepared. Bullies feed off timid reactions such as crying. Dr Borba thus suggests that you should teach your kid to speak with a firm voice and help her practice a few scripted lines such as “stop bothering me!”
Stan Davis, however, considers that such an approach is not always effective in putting an end to bullying and insists on the need to encourage your child to speak out in order to effectively address bullying.
6 | Make use of the power of distraction
The results of the Youth Voice Project showed that kids who are bullied are less bothered by bullies when they are engaged in activities they love with people they appreciate.
Stan Davis suggests that bullied kids should be encouraged to practice activities such as music, sports, painting, swimming, and so on, because these activities give them a sense of accomplishment when they achieve set goals. He also suggests that being altruistic helps kids cope better with bullying.
7 | Cultivate your child’s problem-solving skills
Encouraging your child to participate in the decision-making process gives him the tools to manage many of the challenges he may encounter. Davis suggests that the following three strategies can help your child cope better with bullying:
• Self-calming strategies such as breathing exercises.
• Encouraging your child to explore different options before deciding on what action to take.
• Knowing when – and from whom – to ask for help until they get it.
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An earlier version of this post was published on parent.co