Dealing with bullies is a skill that requires continuous learning, over an entire lifetime. This is true for adults as it is for kids, for the hard truth is that there will always be bullies at every stage in life, in every form, wherever you may go.
Because of this, learning how to deal with bullies is best begun in childhood. Here’s how you can teach your child to deal with bullying.
Step 1. Teach your child what bullies are like.
The first thing anyone needs to know is what a bully looks and acts like. Bullies aren’t always bigger than you, or even the physically violent kind. They can be aggressive, psychological bullies. The one central characteristic of all bullies is the use of any means (e.g., physical violence, manipulation, or verbal abuse) to either insult their victims, or get their victims to do precisely what they want.
Children are vulnerable to bullying because they tend to follow whatever someone else suggests or tells them. They can even feel like they “have to” follow what a bully tells them, and have a hard time recognizing that what a bully does is not acceptable. By giving your child sufficient “warning” or a description of what a true bully is like, he or she can easily discern when what’s being done to him or her is right or wrong.
This extends to teaching a child how to choose friends wisely. Your child should know how to avoid ending up with troublemaking “friends” who bully him or her into doing whatever they want, in exchange for “friendship.”
Step 2. Establish a personal procedure for dealing with bullies.
Create a “script” or procedure for your child to follow, if and when bullying occurs. This requires teaching your child wisdom and stealth, and how to involve adult authorities in dealing with bullies.
For instance, teach your child to pretend to ignore the first few signs of bullying that might occur at school. If the bully is persistent, teach your child how to use a firm voice in saying, “No!” or “Go away!” and how to walk away.
But here’s the stealth part: he or she must then immediately report the incident to a teacher in secret. Your child must also learn to tell you the truth about everything that happened, as well.
Some kids may find doing this to be “cowardly”—bullies tend to accuse their victims of being “snitches” or “cry-babies,” an insult that hurts children enough into keeping quiet about the bullying they experience. You have to teach your child that this isn’t true at all, and that brave heroes are also those who know how to deal with bullies this way.
Step 3. Involve your child’s teachers and guidance counselors.
If, despite all of these precautionary measures, your child seems to be having difficulty in dealing with a bully at school, talk to the teachers and guidance counselors. It’s their job to help you teach both your child and the bully the proper way of dealing with one another. Their help is particularly useful, especially if your child seems too hurt and embarrassed to discuss the abuse.