Back in the day, kids hammered out their differences with their fists or with the snarky, behind-the-scenes rumor mill. As we all know, bullying has earned its fair share of horrible press, and rightfully so. Victims suffer the emotional consequences, sometimes their entire lives. Some pay with their lives.
Although tattling to adults is now the rule instead of the exception, many kids don’t feel comfortable ratting out their peers, no matter how vile they may be. The good news is you can prevent bullying by using a variety of tactics. Some are time-honored traditions; some are new. But regardless of the path you choose, practice it with your kids before you’re the parent on the horn with the principal.
From the apple orchards of Wisconsin to the log homes of Virginia to the beaches of California, what parents know as a matter of practice is what kids only understand intuitively. The lesson? Confidence matters. Firmly (if not officially) established societal principles state that bullies are often bullied themselves. And those who don’t get their figurative butts kicked once in a while never learn there are social consequences to treating others poorly.
Instead of telling your kid to pop that bully in the nose – something a diminutive or shy child would never do – encourage confidence by practicing simple non-violent maneuvers. Meeting a bully’s eye without flinching, staying calm and speaking in a clear, loud voice help your child demonstrate strength without lifting a finger.
Use Your Words
Sounds simple, except that most bullied kids won’t know what to say when the situation arises. Do some role-play with your child to teach them the right words to say. A rolled eye and a loud “excuuuuse me?” sometimes gets the job done. Turning the tables, such as saying “why are you being so mean? You’re not going to have any friends if you treat people that way,” also works.
Dismissing the bully is another effective tactic; for example, “thanks for stopping by!” And don’t forget the eye roll.
Know the Score
Don’t just ask bland questions at the end of the day. Instead, find out what’s really going on. Does your child seem sad or withdrawn? Have their grades dropped? Are they hanging out with the same kids, or do they suddenly prefer getting a ride to school to taking the bus? These subtle hints are often clues that something is going on socially. Don’t ignore it, because it’s a tremendous opportunity to help your child manage stress.
Even if you suspect your child may have contributed in some way to the bullying, listen carefully. Don’t dismiss their feelings. Stay calm. Contact a school official if you suspect harm is imminent.
Most of all, practice your comebacks. The art of non-violent self-defense is learned, not instinctual.