10 Ways to Bully-proof your Child

Photo taken from http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/11/living/bully-proof-kids-hetter/
Experts agree that bullying begins in preschool and gains momentum as kids grow. Depending on which survey you read, between 40% and 80% of middle schoolers (junior high) admit to bullying behaviour. Kids will get bully because of their appearance or dress, their academic ability or hobbies, a disability or just the fact that they are the new kids in town. 

Not only is Bullying pervasive, it has become increasingly dangerous, so that children are committing suicide or being beaten to death by their bullies. Schools with vigorous anti-bullying programming are more likely to stop bullies in their tracks, but not every school has a commitment to stopping the abuse. However, there are things parents can do to strengthen their children before the bullying starts, convince them to tell parents if a verbal or physical attack occurs, and keep them safe.

Below are 10 Ways to Bully-Proof Your Child suggested by Dr. Laura Markham from aha! Parenting.com:

1. Model compassionate, respectful relationships from the time your child is small. The most effective way to keep children from being bullied, and from becoming bullies, is to make sure they grow up in loving relationships, rather than relationships that use power or force to control them.

2. Stay connected to your child through thick and thin. Lonely kids are more likely to be bullied.

3. Model confident behavior with other people. If you tend to back down easily so you don't make a scene, but then later feel pushed-around, it's time to change that. Your child is learning from watching you.

4. Directly teach your child respectful self-assertion. Kids need to know they can get their needs met while being respectful of other people.

5. Teach your child basic social skills. Kids who are outsiders are more likely to be bullied. Bullies prey on children whom they perceive to be vulnerable, including needy children who are so desperate for peer acceptance that they continue to hang around a group of peers even when one of the group leaders begins to mistreat them.

6. Teach your child basic bully avoidance. Bullies operate where adults aren't present, so your child should avoid unsupervised hallways, bathrooms, and areas of the playground.

7. Teach your child that there is no shame in being frightened by a bully, in walking away, or in telling an adult and asking for help. Bullying situations can escalate, and saving face is less important than saving their life.

8. Teach kids to intervene to prevent bullying when they see it. Bullying expert Michele Borba says that when bystanders -- kids who are nearby -- intervene correctly, studies find they can cut bullying more than half the time and within 10 seconds. Bullies have power when the audience of bystanders is silent. "When one kid gets bullied, everyone is silent or laughs or goes along with it because they don't want it to turn on them," says Kenneth Ginsburg, a pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and co-author of Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings

9. Coach your child to handle teasing and bullying by role playing. Research shows that bullies begin with verbal harassment. How the "victim" responds to the first verbal aggression determines whether the bully continues to target this particular child. If the aggression gives the bully what he's looking for -- a feeling of power from successfully pushing the other child's buttons -- the aggression will generally escalate. It's imperative to discuss this issue with your child BEFORE he is subject to bullying, so he can stand up for himself successfully when a bully first "tests" him.

10. Don't hesitate to intervene. Your job as the parent is to protect your child. That means that in addition to teaching your child to stick up for herself, you may well need to call the teacher or principal. Don't give your child the message that she's all alone to handle this. And don't assume that if there isn't physical violence, she isn't being wounded in a deep way. Despite the old rhyme about words not hurting, mean words and isolation are terribly damaging to our psyches, and cause lasting negative effects.

In her post, Dr. Markham's provide specific examples for each one of these tips. I recommend you read her post (click here to read it) for more information about this and other related subjects.

What are you doing to bully-proofing your child?

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