What are ways to help kids become bully-proof during childhood?
Bullying isn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future. It’s an unpleasant reality that almost every single one of us has faced and will face at every age, but children are especially vulnerable.
Helping a child cope with bullies can be a very tricky and delicate process. Growing up, you may recall instances when you felt helpless, even when adults came to your aid. This would happen because adult intervention didn’t provide the permanent solution that you or someone you know was seeking during a troublesome situation with a bully.
Well, there are ample methods for helping children prepare for these situations when they eventually happen. That said, we sometimes forget that “bully-proofing” our kids is less about solving their problems for them and more about equipping them with the tools to handle bullies with confidence and maturity.
So here are a few steps to making your child as bully-proof as possible. They may be a bit hard to swallow and even counterintuitive, but they can also produce real solutions to bullying for your kids.
Step 1: Talk about it early on.
Introduce the concept of bullying and how it may happen to your child as they get older and begin school. Do this by teaching your child how to deal with conflict the correct way, and make sure they really understand.
Remember that at early ages, children are less prone to reasoning.
Their world is black and white to them, so take advantage of their straightforwardness by helping them know early on that bullies exist in the world, and there ways for them to deal with this problem effectively.
Also, it’s far easier to learn this lesson before the problem of bullying starts, mostly because there is no trauma or emotion involved. You’re simply instructing your child on the proper ways for coping with people who don’t like them or make their lives difficult, and they will be more prepared.
Step 2: Be attentive.
The time may eventually come when your child comes to you for help with a bullying problem. As parents, it’s tempting to hear the word “bully” (or something close to it) and rush to the child’s defense implicitly.
This can be a problem, however, if you’re not listening carefully and paying close attention to what your child is telling you. Remember that this is only their side of the story, and that must be taken into account before you rush to judgement.
Instead of fueling the child’s emotions by reacting harshly to their story, ask questions. Find out exactly what is going on and decide from there what type of situation this is.
It could be that the child is misinterpreting a bullying situation or even being somewhat of a bully themselves. Most importantly, you want a full grasp of the situation in order to make sure your child isn’t in significant danger.
Step 3: Be their ally instead of their problem-solver.
This can be difficult because we want the best for our children, and we’ll do anything to keep them from harm. But that is why it is far more effective to teach kids how to solve their problems on their own.
Of course, there will be times when you need to step in and intervene, but that should not be your default reaction to a bullying problem unless absolutely necessary. Put another way, it’s better for the child to discern when they need adult intervention (such as in times of real danger) or if they can handle the problem by themselves.
That said, make sure that the child understands that you are on their side. You’re there to help them through the situation and listen to them, but solving the problem on their behalf won’t help in the long run. Instead, solve the problem with them.
Otherwise, they’ll continue relying on others for handling conflict, which can lead to detrimental habits as they get older. You want your kid to have the strength and confidence to deal with these problems on their own and know when they need help, but that doesn’t usually happen overnight.
It generally takes years of development and personal growth for them to accomplish this, and you can be their greatest ally during the process. Doing so can ensure that your kid is a bully-proof child, teenager and (someday) adult.