Many kids (and their parents) worry about bullying. Whether it’s on the playground at school or during extracurricular activities, bullying is a serious and difficult issue. Here is our specific advice for children concerned with bullying. These steps can be useful for preventing bullying in most in-person situations. Please share them with your children:
- Exude confidence. Confidence is a bully’s biggest enemy. If you want to prevent bullies from thinking that you’re an easy target, then you can work on not only developing an inner confidence, but also on projecting confidence. Stand tall, make eye contact with people, look happy to be where you are, and avoid hunching over or looking at the ground. Look engaged and happy when you talk to other people, and walk to class with a purpose, not like you’re dragging your feet. Though developing true confidence can take a long time, making the effort can put you on the path to being less likely to be bullied.
- Gather support from friends. If you have a group of friends or even just a friend or two, this is the time to get their support. You can tell them about what’s happening and make sure to stick by them in any threatening situations. If you know when the bully is most likely to approach you, whether it’s in the halls or on your walk home, make sure you’re not alone. Walking with at least one friend reduces the likelihood of the bully approaching you. Further, if you have an older friend, or even an older sibling, that will help to scare the bully off.
- Stop living in fear. If you go about your day, thinking about all of the ways that you can be bullied, from being tripped in the cafeteria to being laughed at in class, then you are going to be spending far too much being afraid of everything that can happen. Of course, it’s best to be on your guard and to be prepared for anything when you’re being bothered by a bully, but you should try visualizing a positive outcome when you think about any of the negative situations that can arise in a bully’s presence.
- Consider taking some self-defense classes. While you shouldn’t start fighting a bully who comes up to you, and only resort to violence if you have no other option, taking a few self-defense classes, such as karate, can help you not only learn to defend yourself, but to gain the confidence you’ll need to stand up to bullies. Just knowing that you could fight back when a bully is approaching you will make you much more confident when you face the bully, and you’ll also have more confidence in your own strength.
- Believe in yourself. If you know who you are and have faith in yourself, then you will be less likely to be approached by a bully. You don’t have to think you’re the greatest person in the world, but always putting yourself first and knowing that your goals and needs are important can go a long way in helping you avoid bullies. If you think you are an interesting, thoughtful, and worthy person, then a bully will be much less likely to bring you down.
- Avoid the bully as much as you can. This may sound like an obvious point, but one of the ways you can prevent being bullied is to simply avoid places where the bully is likely to be. Sit in a new spot of the cafeteria. Take a new path to class or a new path home. Do what you can to be away from that person as much as possible. Though you shouldn’t change your whole life and schedule just to avoid this person, avoiding the bully will make him or her get bored and to stop making the effort to bother you.
- Don’t stoop down to the bully’s level. If the bully is mean to you, calls you names, or tries to humiliate you in public, of course it will be tempting to be mean to that person back, but if you really want to stop the bullying, then you can’t stoop down to the bully’s level. If you call him or her names back, try to fight unprovoked, or just engage in general meanness, then you’ll be escalating the situation and making it worse for yourself.
- Learn to stand up for yourself. If a bully comes up to you and says hurtful things, then your best bet is to exude confidence (see #1), stand tall, and to look that person firmly in the eye and say, “Stop!” or, “Leave me alone.” Just saying something simple and then moving on can show that you’re not letting the bully get you down and that you’re willing to stick up for yourself. This may make the bully think that you’re not a good target because you’re too strong.
- Don’t let the bully see that you care. A bully’s goal is to make you cry and to feel worthless. Sure, the things he says may be hurtful and may fill you with self-doubt, but you must never, ever let the bully see that anything he says has an effect on you. If he says something mean and you look visibly upset, then he’ll only be encouraged to dole out more of the same. But if he calls you names and you shrug and act like you couldn’t care less, then he will be much less likely to keep pestering you.
- Don’t ever blame yourself. Don’t ever think it’s your fault that you’re being bullied because there’s something wrong with you. Bullies are often cruel and irrational people who have low self-esteem and who try to make themselves feel better by belittling other people. They don’t act rationally, and it’s never your fault if a bully starts bothering you. Don’t be hard on yourself and think that the situation could have been avoided if you looked or dressed differently. If you’re being bullied, then it’s important to be calm, to think positively, and to avoid blaming yourself if you want to get out of the situation as soon as possible.
Being the victim of bullying can make anyone feel terrible about themselves (for no reason). But if kids are able recognize their own self-worth, don’t give in to the bully, and tell an adult when necessary, they can avoid being a victim of bullying and can stop the “dread” of going to school.