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How to Prevent Bullying ​and Get Help

As a parent, the last thing you want for your child is for him or her to be bullied or rejected by peers. Unfortunately, bullying is all-too-common among school-aged children. The good news is that you can take steps to prevent bullying.

If your child is being bullied despite your best efforts at prevention, you might be tempted to react out of protectiveness and anger. But this is never a good idea. Instead, teach your child how to handle bullying behavior, report bullying to school officials and seek the help of school officials to stop the bullying.

How Can I Prevent My Child from Being Bullied?

Bullies look for certain qualities and traits in their victims. Of course, if your child is bullied for being small for his or her age, there’s nothing either of you can do to change that circumstance. However, you can teach your child the following ways to prevent being targeted by bullies:

  • Make friends and get other kids to help. Bullies tend not to pick on kids who are self-confident or have friends who will back them up. Bullies don’t want to look bad in front of someone they respect, and friends can equal physical and emotional support for your child.
  • Avoid the bully. Although this won’t be possible all of the time, your child should try to minimize his or her exposure to the bully.
  • Don’t act like a victim. Weakness attracts bullies. Teach your child to stand up straight, look people in the eye, speak with a firm voice and act confident, even when he or she does not feel confident.
  • Be firm with a bully. By learning how to stand their ground, children can discourage bullies from targeting them.
  • Identify the situations where bullying is likely to happen, and avoid them.

As a parent, you also can do some things to help your child:

  • Teach your child how to change unlikeable traits that prevent him or her from forming friendships, and teach skills for developing friendships.
  • Work on friendship skills together at home. Practice and role-play different scenarios, and teach your child how he or she should respond.
  • Monitor your child’s online activity and look for signs of cyberbullying.
  • Talk to your child’s teacher regularly to find out if bullying behavior is occurring. You also can get involved in your child’s school through organizations like the PTA and by volunteering in the classroom.
  • Protect your child from bullying by teaching him or her ways to protect other students, such as reporting bullying to teachers; gathering other bystanders to tell the bully to stop; or helping the victim get away from the situation by inviting him or her to participate in a new activity.

What Can I Do to Help My Child If He or She Is Being Bullied?

If your child is currently being bullied, you can teach him or her some strategies to keep the situation from escalating. In addition, be sure to alert your child’s teacher and school officials about the bullying. Schools have a zero-tolerance policy against bullying, and they can take steps to protect your child.

  • Take the time to talk to your child every day about his or her day at school. If you talk regularly, your child is more likely to open up and tell you when there is a problem.
  • Take a solution-focused approach. Brainstorm possible solutions to the bullying situation, consider the pros and cons of each option, and share them with your child.
  • Teach your child not to return insults from a bully. Instead, your child should deflect the bully’s comment with an “I” statement. For example, if a bully calls your child a wimp, he or she might respond with, “Yeah, I’m working on that.”
  • Tell your child that if a bully is aggressive, then he or she should leave the situation if possible and talk to a trusted adult.
  • Teach your child that becoming visibly upset only feeds a bully’s appetite for more bullying.
  • Encourage your child to talk to someone about the problem. This is not tattling; your child is reporting violent behavior that needs to stop for his or her sake as well as the bully’s.
  • Suggest some responses your child can make to the bully. Teach your child to stand up for himself or herself and to feel more in control of the situation. The more children stand up for themselves, the more empowered they feel.
  • Talk to your child about specific situations that are occurring. After he or she tells you what happened, role-play how your child can better handle the situation in the future. Play the role of the bully and have your child practice telling you assertively to leave him or her alone or even walking away. Practice every day so these skills become natural and comfortable to your child.
  • Teach your child to be strong. Crying excessively or playing up the victim role only attracts more attention from bullies. Teach your child to use humor or positive self-talk to prevent emotional reactions. When victims stop giving bullies emotional responses, the bullying often stops.
  • Avoid telling your child to “Toughen up” or “Stand up and be a man.” In addition to the shame and embarrassment many bullying victims feel, they also experience guilt because they feel they’re not living up to parental expectations. Your child can interpret glib remarks like these as confirmation that you consider him or her a failure.
  • Communicate your love. Tell your child you are proud of him or her and that he or she always has your support.

Teaching Activity

Talking to Your Child about Bullying

Take some time to discuss the subject of bullying with your child. Teach your child how to identify bullying and what to do if he or she or another ​child is being bullied. And, teach your child to always report bullying, whether it happens to him or her or another child. Here are some questions to keep the discussion moving:

  1. What are some things a bully has done to you or someone else?
  2. How did you respond to that?
  3. Do you think you responded the right way? If not, what would you do differently?
  4. If someone says something mean to you, what are some things you can say or do?
  5. What are some ways you can avoid the bully?

Social Skills

Appropriately Resolving Conflicts

Bullying is a type of conflict, but your child doesn’t have to engage in that ​conflict with the bully. Use these steps to teach your child the skill of “Appropriately Resolving Conflicts”:

  1. Approach the situation calmly and rationally.
  2. Listen to the other people who are involved.
  3. Express your feelings appropriately and assertively.
  4. Acknowledge other points of view.
  5. Show that you are willing to negotiate and compromise.
  6. Help arrive at a mutually beneficial resolution.
  7. Thank the other ​person (or people) for cooperating.

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