Thursday, June 30, 2011

7 Steps to Bully-Proofing Kids

According to White House estimates, over 13 million kids are bullied across the U.S. each year, so it’s important to take pro-active steps. For parents, teachers, counselors, grandparents, group leaders, and anyone else with a child in your life, here seven steps to help you “bully-proof” the kids you love and care about:

1. Teach them to value their self-worth. Every child needs to know they don't have to look, act, dress, learn, or be like everyone else to be worthy of respect. Affirm their talents, strengths, and competencies so they can always remember who they are at the core, regardless of what anyone else says or does.

2. Teach them that they never have to tolerate cruel behavior. Sadly, kids who are bullied often believe they deserve it. They wonder if there’s something inherently wrong with them that causes the bullying. Teach them that bullying is more about the person who bullies than the recipient of it. And let them know that under no circumstances should they ever allow someone to purposely humiliate, threaten, shun, or harm them. If that happens, it’s critical that they seek the well-deserved support of someone who cares about them.

3. Teach them that asking for help isn’t tattling. Too often kids avoid telling adults they’ve been bullied because they believe that would be “snitching.” For whatever reason, there’s an unspoken taboo against “telling” among too many kids. Let them know they have the right to be emotionally and physically safe under all circumstances, and if someone violates that right, they have the right to ask for help.

They also need to know that if the bullying continues they need to keep asking support until it stops.

4. Teach them to avoid kids who are “trouble.” Sometimes our kids put themselves at risk by seeking the approval or friendship of kids who mistreat them. Tell them, "If someone doesn't like you, there's someone else who does.” As long as they have one person they consider a friend, that may be enough.

5. Teach them how to stand tall, look someone in the eyes, and say, "Stop," without whining, crying, or looking scared. Rehearse this with them so they can develop the ability to assertively stand up to someone who tries to bully them -- even if they’re shaking inside. Then, go on to Step 6.

6. Teach them how to walk away with pride. They don't have to stand there and take it if someone's directing mean words or actions at them. Role play with them how to stand tall with head held high, and walk away from someone who's trying to put them down. Walking away in this manner is a sign of strength, not weakness, and it takes the wind out of the person who's trying to gain power over you.

7. Keep the doors of communication open at all times, and take time to talk with them every day. That way, they'll be more likely to come to you if someone's bullying them, rather than withdrawing in shame and silence.

By the way, for the latest on what you need to know about cyberbullying, click here. 

Every child deserves to be respected.

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  1. This is a great list, and many of these are important whether a child is exposed to bullying or not. I can tell you from personal experience (I work with a lot of early elementary kids) that #3 is a HUGE issue at our level.

    Thanks for all the info!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Tim. Hope the list helps the kids you work with. Would love to hear how, plus ways you help your kids apply it.