Any type of bullying is quickly going to make a child or teenager feel embarrassed, helpless, and powerless. Bullying can come in many forms these days ranging from online bullying and the holding of embarrassing information to physical threats and taunting. In order to avoid these devastating scenarios, every parent should know at least a handful of steps that they can take to prevent their child from becoming a victim of this aggressive behavior.
Also referred to as social cognition, social competence is a child’s ability to interact with other kids of their own age. One of the best ways to avoid having a child bullied is to encourage social interaction as early as possible, even before they are speaking. By having playdates and playgroups at a very early age, children will be able to pick up on social cues and behaviors that will not only reduce their risk of being bullied, but also ensure that they are not bullies themselves.
Children often need to find a balance between their own individuality and fitting in with others in a social setting. Parents should expose their children to any number of activities that will interest kids of their age such as movies, sports, and music. If the child is not interested in traditional age or gender-related activities, it is important that they seek out other avenues of interest. Becoming proficient in any activity or hobby is a great way to build confidence, and confidence is one trait that makes a child extremely difficult to bully.
Another fine line for children is understanding the difference respectful self-assertion and unnecessary aggressive behavior. From an early age children should be taught that they can assert themselves in certain situations and it is important to vocalize their side right from the start. Every child should understand a handful of assertive phrases that they can use if they ever feel like they are being threatened or bullied. This includes commands such as:
Modern research shows that most bullying begins with verbal harassment. How the victim responds to this initial harassment will determine if they continue picking on that child. Parents should teach children that the bully is looking to illicit an emotional response such as anger or fear. If they do not get this response it is likely that they will just walk away. Children can practice on their parents by saying simple phrases and walking away. Attempting to demean the bully instead of deflecting will often escalate the situation.
Studies have also shown that when children stand together against bullying the incidences of bullying in that particular school, sports team, or class will go down dramatically. Children can be taught that it is not only okay to intervene against bullying, it is the right thing to do. Proper intervention includes identifying bullying right as it happens (generally verbal or physical harassment), standing near the victim, partnering with the victim as a united front, and then seeking out the help of an adult.
Parents should also remember that they must intervene if they believe their child is being bullied or is a bully themselves. Learning to “fend” for oneself is not a simple part of growing up. Teaching children ways to avoid bullying altogether and intervene when they see it taking place has been shown to be a much more valuable skill set as they continue to grow and develop.
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