Below are some strategies which can help empower your child in the event of being bullied or better still to prevent it from happening in the first place. These measures fall under general headings of communicating; parenting skills; nurturing personality and dealing with encounters.
- Discuss bullying behaviour with your children at a time of calm rather than crisis, to clarify what your understanding of bullying behaviour is, to make them aware that it is not just physical and can have many effects – maybe use an example from the news or a situation where neither of you are involved. Raising awareness in this way and giving the problem a name makes it easier to talk about should a problem arise.
- Be careful when telling your child that “you shouldn’t tell tales” or when you are discouraging “whistleblowing” – make it clear that it is always right to tell when they see something wrong.
- Lead by example – wherever you observe negative behaviour in everyday life you should highlight it and discourage it.
- Avoid inconsistent discipline and do as you say, exercise democracy in the home and give children responsibility.
- Build confidence and self-esteem – confident children are more likely to stand up for themselves if bullied; be patient and praise your child frequently to grow their confidence.
- Promote a positive self-image – teach your child good table manners, personal hygiene and basic information such as the facts of life. When it comes to physical appearance, young people generally want to have the ‘in look’ so that they are not different to everyone else. While you may come under unreasonable pressure to buy expensive brand name shoes and clothing, it may still be possible to allow your child a choice within an affordable budget.
- Teach your child to be friendly and sociable – a person’s sociability and style of communication send out strong signals and children who are popular with their peers tend to be independent and take responsibility for themselves and others. They are sensitive, are able to organize and participate in a range of games and activities, and to manage their interactions with peers without aggression while resolving conflicts verbally and rationally. Explain that looking happy, smiling and joining in to what is happening will encourage others to accept them into the group. Children learn friendship skills through imitation and observation, but some may need direct instruction and practice.
- Ensure that your child speaks clearly – discourage mumbling or speaking so quietly that they are constantly being asked to repeat themselves as well as habits such as interrupting all the time, being noisy or shrill, showing off, being a know-all, and not listening to others.
- Motivate your child to have friends in more than one area of their lives, e.g. in the neighbourhood or in hobby or sports groups, so that they have a wide circle of friends.
Dealing with Encounters
- Encourage your child to protect their own personal space by sitting at the same desk every day and standing with the same group of friendly students when lining up for classes in order to avoid confrontations.
- ·If your child is physically challenged by someone standing in front of them, suggest they protect their personal space by placing their schoolbag in front of them, or standing sideways while maintaining eye contact and making an assertive “I” statement, e.g. “I need some room here” or “I can’t breathe, could you stand back a bit please?”
- Help your child practice looking in the mirror, into their own eyes, and saying “no” or “leave me alone” in a clear voice. Use role play to act out threatening situations and practice responding calmly and firmly.