The topic of bullying has been getting a lot of press lately. In fact, bullying has become such a hot topic that there's been a recent nationwide crackdown on bullying. But is the anti-bullying movement truly working? Are your kids going to have a run-in with a bully this school year?
There's a lot of lip service paid to the notion that schools need stringent anti-bullying policies, and many districts across the country have implemented strong regulations designed to curb bullying behavior, but the truth of the matter is that bullies can be clever – and bullying hasn't disappeared;
The first step to bully-proofing your grade schooler, teen, or tween is communication. Your kids need to feel that they can come to you – and to other trusted adults – any time they are in an uncomfortable situation with another kid (or kids) at school. Talk to them! Provide resources for them. Discuss strategies to help them defuse a bullying situation, encourage them to share their concerns and feelings, and most importantly …
… boost their confidence! Kids with high self-esteem are more likely to stand up to bullies and less likely to suffer an emotional toll at the hands of mean kids. Teach your kids to look people in the eye, stand up straight (there's a lot to be said for confident body language!), use an assertive tone of voice, and most of all, to believe in themselves! A confident kid is less like to end up with a "bully-y eye" on his or her back.
Arming your kids with another tool in the anti-bullying arsenal with not only help deter a bully, but also help pave the way to becoming an emotionally savvy adult. And that tool is comprehending a bully's motivation. What makes bullies tick? The answer is really pretty simple. Most bullies are compensating for their own feelings of insecurity or inadequacy. Pushing others around makes bullies feel bigger than someone else. Once your child understands how small a bully really is on the inside, it can take a lot of the fear out of a confrontation. Humanizing an adversary can do wonders for helping a child see a more level playing field.
But let's say that a bully does appear on the scene this school year. What now? Obviously, the best possibility would be to circumvent the situation entirely. Of course, it's not always possible to avoid a bully, but sometimes – especially in the event of the new and alarming trend toward cyber bullying – cutting off the bully's access to your child will leave that bully with nowhere to go. If avoiding isn't possible, suggest trying to ignore the bully's behavior. Some (but not all) bullies will tire of taunting a kid who doesn't react.
Of course, sometimes circumventing the bully doesn't work. Your child is already a target, so he needs to figure out how to counteract the bully's behavior. Consider coaching your kids to outwit the bully by responding to cruelty with kindness,or a simple silly comeback ,"You're right, I am a wimp!"
All of the strategies I've outlined will help you get your kids feel in control when faced with bullies at school this year. Armed with the confidence you've inspired in them and the comfort of knowing they can talk to you about their school experiences, coupled with an understanding of why bullies pick on other kids and a pocketful of strategies to avoid or thwart bullying behavior your kids' book bag of school supplies is ready!
And just think, since these strategies work on the school bus and in the corridors at school, you may be helping your kids develop lifelong bully-proofing!