Tips on helping your child deal with a bully

Bullying is something that many school going kids deal with and my son experienced it too. Every day he kept asking me for more and more lunch money. But what got me and my wife suspicious was that he seemed to get skinnier by the day and used to come home hungry from school. What shocked us was that his lunch money was being snatched away everyday by a 6th grade kid, who threatened my son to beat him up if he didn’t hand over his money every day. What saddens me to this day is the fact that this sort of bullying is extremely common with more children putting up with it than you and I can imagine.

The thing with bullies is that they can turn something as simple as recess or going to the bus stop into a nightmare for children. The worst part about is the deep emotional scars that bullying leaves on the victims. In the most extreme situations, it can lead to physical violence, threats and the victim getting badly hurt.

In case your child is getting bullied, it is of utmost importance for you to help your little one get through it and stop it. There are quite a few things that you can do to assist your child in coping with bullying and teasing so that its impact is lessened. Here’s how you should go about it:

7 Learn what bullying is about

A majority of kids get teased by their siblings and friends every now and then. To be honest, it isn’t usually harmful considering that it is done in a friendly, playful and mutual manner where both the kids involved find it funny. However, in case things become unkind, hurtful and constant, this means that the line is being crossed – your child may become a bullying victim and you need to stop it right now.

Just so you know, bullying involves intentionally tormenting someone in physical, verbal or even psychological ways. It may include things like shoving, hitting, threatening, mocking and even name-calling to achieve purposes like extorting possessions and money. Kids are also known to bully others by spreading bad rumors about them or shunning them completely – all of this is eventually meant to hurt the victims’ feelings. If you feel that your child is being bullied, you shouldn’t brush the matter off and take it seriously – don’t just tell your kid to ‘tough out’. The effects that bullying leads to can be serious and may even tarnish your child’s sense of self-worth and safety.

Understand things

Bullying is nowhere close to being child’s play – it is one of the most frightening experiences that a child may have in his life. It involves chronically and systematically inflicting physical hurt as well as psychological distress on someone ‘weaker’. It basically arises as a perceived or real power imbalance between the bully and his target. The worst part about bullying is that it can leave your child damaged for life with all the physical and psychological distress involved.

6 Identify the signs of bullying

Unless your kid starts complaining about being bullied, or your notice visible injuries and bruises on him, there isn’t much chance that you will come to know about what’s happening in his life. However, there are a few warning signs that you should look out for too. When a child gets bullied, his parents may notice that he’s acting differently, seeming anxious, not sleeping well, eating or doing the things he has long enjoyed. Apart from that, the kid may seem more easily upset or a bit moodier than usual and he may even avoid situations like taking the bus to school due to the fear of being bullied.

In case you suspect bullying, it is highly recommended for you to look up opportunities to discuss the issue in a somewhat ‘roundabout’ manner. For example, when you’re watching TV and a bullying scene comes up on a show, ask your child things like, “What do you think of this?” Once the conversation gets started, get on to questions like, “Have you ever experienced this?” Apart from that, it is also recommended for you to bring up any experiences that you or a family member may have had at that age.

Signs of bullying

The different signs that you should be on the lookout for if you suspect your child getting bullied are:

  • Reduced interest in activities he previously enjoyed
  • Scared of going to school
  • Low self-esteem
  • Appears fearful or anxious
  • Appears irritable
  • Appears isolated
  • Needs money, comes home hungry from school or loses things at school

5 Promote communication

If your child is getting bullied, it is extremely important for you to encourage him to speak him. Ask him every now and then if someone is bothering him and give due consideration to his peer interaction. This should include frenemies too – friends that like to bully each other when they don’t get their own way with their friends.

In order to give your child a bit of confidence to speak up about being bullying, it is highly recommended for you to talk about your own experiences. This way, it will be easily possible for you to empathize with him and his situation by being more so ‘authentic’. If you want, you may say things like, “I am very upset because of what you are going through. I’ll always be there for you”. If anything, just focus on maintaining the sort of relationship where you can communicate openly with your child. Encourage him as much as possible to talk to you and other adults in his life that he may feel close to – make him understand that even people like his aunts, friends and teachers can help him out.

Never ignore what your child has to say

When your child is being bullied, it is necessary for you to be a good listener so he may share his problems and concerns with you. You should let him know that you will always be there to help him out and actually ask him things like, “What can I do to help you out?” When he starts talking, don’t disrupt him and listen to him with an open heart and mind.

4 Coach him on how he should react

The one thing you need to teach your child about bullies is that they tend to pick on people that they get a reaction from – they love picking on kids who get emotional about things and become upset upon being bullied. They are also interested in bullying kids who don’t know how to stand up for themselves and can be overpowered. For this reason it is necessary for you to coach your child on how to react. Apart from that, it is also necessary for you to tell him who he should go to at school when he starts feeling unsafe.

If possible, you should also try role-playing activities with him and let him practice how not to react to what the bullies have to say. Research suggests that bullies begin with simple verbal harassment. The victim’s reaction to the first verbal aggression is what determines whether the bully wants to continue targeting this particular child. However, if your child does become a victim, the right response or lack of response can drive away the bully. This is why you should role play with your child how he should stand up to a bully.

A few considerations

While teaching your child how to tackle a bully, make sure that you don’t promote fighting back or retaliation against a bully. Instead, tell him to either avoid the bully by walking away, tell the bully to leave him alone or ask a coach or teacher for help. Also, tell your child to stick with his friends whenever the bully gets down to his antics. 

3 Practice confidence

The one thing that you can’t deny is that non-verbal communication has the potential to speak volumes. For this reason, you should help your child learn how to hold his head high while standing straight up, look the bully in the eye, walk around him, nod a bit at him and walk away. As a parent, you should tell him that quivering and cowering are all signs of fear, which is one thing that every single bully out there loves in his victims. For your child to learn all of this, you will have to hold practice sessions so he can make a bit of headway on it. If your child has become scared of the bully, this is going to involve retraining his brain so that it may react differently than triggering the default fear response.

If your child complains of the bully following him around, pushing him, poking him or even confronting him every now and then, you need to coach him to say “KNOCK IT OFF” or “STOP IT!” in a firm voice. This is proof enough that he has the ability to defend himself against any behavior that he does not like or approve of. This skill can easily be practiced at home, so make sure that you give time to it.

Personalize things

If you were a bullying victim back in the days, there is a good chance that his experience will bring up painful memories and thoughts. It is recommended for you to connect with your kid about how bullying feels, but you shouldn’t take the problem on as if it is yours alone. To help him, recall the advice and steps that helped you out the most and avoid bringing up things that you found unsupportive. 

2 Does your child possess basic social skills?

The fact of the matter is that bullies are most interested in picking on kids they believe are vulnerable. In case your child has a few social-skill challenges, it is vital for you to support your child so that he doesn’t appear attractive to bullies. A few things that you should try out include making games out of social skills and playing them at home. You should also consider role playing with him to teach him how to join a game at the playground, initiate a play date and introduce themselves to other kids at a party.

The one thing that you should know about kids is that they at times want peer acceptance to the point that they continue stay with a group of peers even if the group leader starts mistreating them. If you have reasons to believe that your child is vulnerable, it is recommended for you to listen to what he says about his peer interactions so that you can teach him to check in with his own inner wisdom. This way, he will acquire the ability to acquire healthy relationship opportunities for himself without the fear of getting bullied.

Instruct him on basic bully avoidance

You need to know the fact that bullies only operate in areas where adults are not present. For this reason, it is best for you to teach your child to avoid unsupervised bathrooms, hallways and areas of the playground. To avoid bullies, your child should be advised to stand in front of the line, sit in the front of the school bus, and sit at a lunch table that is nearest to the cafeteria chaperones. 

1 Promote positive body language

As your child becomes 3-years-old, he is ready to learn all the tricks that will help him become ‘unappealing’ to bullies. By this age, you should start teaching him to look at the color of his friends’ eye and do the same when he is talking to a child who is teasing him. This is going to go a long way in terms of helping him hold his head up so he will appear to be far more confident than he is. Apart from that, you should also help him practice making brave, sad and happy faces and tell him to switch to ‘brave’ whenever someone starts bothering him. Remember, how your child ‘looks’ when he comes across a bully is far more important than what he says.

The next thing that you need to do is to practice a script with your child. For this, you should focus on rehearsing a way to respond to a bully so that your child is prepared for it. Here, you will need to teach him how to speak in a firm, strong voice because crying or whining is just going to encourage his bully even more. To put it in simple words, your child’s comeback should not be a put-down because it will only go on to aggravate his bully.

Praise his progress

When your child manages to get rid of a bully, you should tell him how proud you are of his progress. In case you notice a child standing up to a bully at the park, you should point it out to your child so he can copy the tactic. When he does it, praise him so he can feel appreciate and may even be encouraged.

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