by Rebecca Eanes on May 2nd, 2017
If you’ve ever been the victim of a bully, you know too well how it feels to humiliated and overpowered. While there is no way to 100% bully-proof anyone, there are important skills we can teach our children to minimize the impact a bully has, to turn them away, and to help our children get out of sticky situations.
Help your child build a positive social network.
Connection with caring friends and supportive adults act as a shield of sorts, giving your child strength to overcome the challenge a bully presents. In fact, being socially connected is an important factor in overall happiness. How can you help your child build this network?
Keep the parent/child relationship a top priority. Maintaining a positive relationship with your child is essential. They need to know they can confide in you. Otherwise, you may never know they are being bullied. By practicing positive parenting, you can both guild your child while keeping your relationship strong. Teach and practice respectful, positive communication so that they have the skills and comfort level to talk to you about what’s going on in their lives.
Foster as many positive connections as you can with relatives, friends, people at church or in other groups, etc. The bigger your child’s village is, the bigger his shield.
Teach your child friendship-building social skills, such as how to introduce themselves, how to start a conversation, eye contact, showing interest, and joining a group activity.
Give Your Child the Gift of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence plays an important role in our relationships, social status, success, and happiness. A child who is comfortable with her emotions and knows how to confidently handle them is less likely to be shaken by the words or actions of a bully. She is better able to move through emotions like anger, sadness, fear, and disappointment. Try these tips to increase your child’s EI.
2. Teach regulation skills. The calm down area is a good tool for children to learn to get a grip on those big feelings. At first, you’ll need to sit in the calm down area with your child and teach her how to self-regulate. Provide sensory and calming items such as a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a calming glitter jar, books, paper and pencil, or balloons filled with playdough. Figuring out how to soothe the mind and body so that logic and reason can come back online is a critical skill that will keep children (and adults) from reacting in a negative way or lashing out and regretting it later.
3. Teach conflict resolution and problem-solving skills. This requires a lot of time and patience while the child is young but has a big pay-off when they are older. Teach this by talking your child through a conflict, assisting with ideas when needed, and help her bring about a peaceful solution. For example, if two siblings are fighting over a toy, you might say, “It looks like there’s a problem with this toy. You both want it. Can we come up with a solution? Jane, you first. Can you think of way to solve this problem?” Coach Jane as needed to come up with ideas like taking turns, finding a new toy to play with, or playing with it together. “Okay, so you have decided you want to take turns. Amy, Jane would like to take turns. Does this work for you? Okay, how about you hand over the toy to Amy as soon as you are finished? Thank you! Good problem-solving!” Then you’ll just watch to make sure she follows through. Here’s a great article on helping your child with turn taking. This will take many repetitions, but eventually they’ll start doing it on their own, and when they do, it’s bliss! How does this help when faced with a bully? It gives them confidence to handle themselves when an adult isn’t immediately present.
Bullies prey on victims who are isolated or who they can intimidate. Being assertive means your child can voice how she is feeling and stand up for her rights without being aggressive or passive. Assertive people can calmly state their feelings and needs in a respectful way. Here are some tips:
Talk about boundaries. Teach your child about physical and emotional boundaries. Let them know that it is their right to say “no,” to leave a friendship that feels bad, and to tell an adult when someone isn’t respecting their boundaries.
Let your child make decisions. This is an easy way to build the assertive muscles. “I’d rather wear the red shirt today” is good practice for “I’d prefer not to attend that party tonight.”
Role play various situations so that your child becomes comfortable with assertive responses. Teach him to say “Stop it. That’s not okay.” Play out scenarios where your child will need to tell an adult and what to do when no adults are around, and discuss that it is NOT tattling if someone is being hurt!
Rebecca Eanes, is the founder of positive-parents.org and creator of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. She is the bestselling author of 3 books. Her newest book,Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, is more than a parenting book, it's a guide to human connection. She has also written The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting, and co-authored the book, Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide to Putting Positive Parenting Principles in Action in Early Childhood. She is the grateful mother to 2 boys.