6. Teach your child how the dynamics of bullying work.
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 every child BEFORE they might be subject to bullying, so they can stand up for themselves successfully when a bully first “tests” them.
7. Practice with roleplays so that your child feels comfortable responding to teasing and provocations.
Roleplay with your child how he can stand up to a bully. Point out to your child that the bully wants to provoke a response that makes the bully feel powerful, so showing emotion and fighting back is exactly what the bully feeds off.
Explain that while your child can’t control the bully, he can always control his own response. So in every interaction, how he responds will either inflame the situation or defuse it. Your child needs to avoid getting “hooked” no matter how mad the bully makes him.
The best strategy is always to maintain one’s own dignity, and to let the “bully” maintain his dignity — in other words, to keep your dignity while withdrawing from the situation, and not to attack or demean the other person. To do this, simply say something calm like:
“You know, I’m just going to ignore that comment.”
“I think I have something else to do right now.”
“No thank you.”
Then, just walk away.
Teach your child to count to ten to stay calm, look the bully in the eye, and say one of these things. Practice until your child has a strong, self-assured tone.
8. When your child first begins to use technology, teach, supervise, and stay involved.
Bullying on Social Media is not so different from bullying in person; it is still an abuse of power. But there are some differences. Kids who wouldn’t be likely to engage in unkindness to someone’s face may be able to ignore the impact of their actions online, and thus may find it harder to resist bullying.
When your child first begins to use social media, review it with them daily. Keep an attitude of curiosity, support, and humor.
Ask your child how they felt about their various interactions, what was hard, how they decided what to do. Children develop good judgment from interactions where they have a chance to safely reflect on the choices they made, and what happened.
To prevent online bullying, teach kids:
- Never share your passwords, no matter what.
- Review privacy settings regularly with your parents.
- Do not share anything that could hurt or embarrass anyone.
- Never forward anything that could be hurtful.
- Being kind to others online will help to keep you safe.
- Remember that being mean online or forwarding hurtful messages is just like being mean or spreading hurtful rumors or embarrassing someone in person.
- Always come to an adult if something online makes you uncomfortable.
The good news about bullying via technology is that you have a record. So if your child does get bullied online:
- Document everything with screenshots and dates.
- Block the person.
- Report it to the school, with documentation.
9. 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.
10. 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 stop bullying more than half the time and within 10 seconds.