A topic that impacts children and adolescents alike is the topic of bullying. Every child, adolescent, and parent has been bullied, was bully, or witnessed the effects bullying can have on a child – even into adulthood. Bullying has expanded outside the school and into the “comfort” of a child’s home through the internet and various social media sites. While there are books and articles devoted to this topic, I wanted to include some additional advice on how a parent and his/her child should deal with this pressing issue.
The way in which bullies choose their targets is similar to how attackers choose their victims; both prey on the vulnerable and weak. The best way to deter a potentially violent altercation is to display confidence through your body language and verbal dialogue. By standing up straight, maintaining good eye contact, and speaking in an assured tone of voice, you have made it clear that you are not an ideal target for attack or to be bullied.
In addition to confidence, parents should teach their child to have no emotional response to any verbal dialogue, name calling, or teasing by the bully. Bullies need something to fuel their harassment; they need a reward. In many cases, this reward is the angry child who lashes back or the hurt child who starts to cry. Having these reactions will only perpetuate the conflict. If a child is trying to verbally bully your child, teach him/her to look at the bully (confidence) and walk away without responding or reacting to what was said. This undermines the bully’s intentions and causes his/her attack to deflate; the bully did not get the response he/she wanted. The bully will likely stop once he/she realizes it is having no effect on your child.
If the bully is determined to get an emotional response, it is best for your child to find and stay in the presence of a supervising adult. A bully will not be as willing to continue teasing a child when an adult is present.
To successfully teach children how to not be affected by harmful words, parents should educate their children that they are the ones who control their lives and their emotions. The only thing that matters is how your child feels about him/herself – it is irrelevant what somebody else says. Only if your child believes what a bully says, will it then affect him/her.
Children will also be able to deal with a bully better if they understand why another child resorts to bullying. It is often because the bully is insecure in him/herself and is looking to feel better by putting someone else down. While everyone wants to feel better, teach your children that there are other ways to accomplish this – such as making friends (the opposite of bullying).
The backbone of any defense against bullying is the relationship between parent and child. Children and parents should have a relationship where the child feels comfortable to talk to the parents about everything from his/her goals and aspirations, to concerns and issues such as bullying. Parents serve a vital role in teaching children to be confident in themselves and it is imperative to keep the lines of communication open.
Note: In the event you feel your child may benefit from speaking to someone else besides you, teachers may also provide a safe heaven.