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Tips on 'Bullyproofing' Your Child for the New School Year

There's been good progress over the last few years on the bullying front, but parents can do more by taking a proactive stance with their children.

The last few years have seen a lot of focus on bullying and efforts to stop or diminish bullying in our school systems. Most schools seem to have come on board with the effort, although there are still some that persist in ignoring the issue of blatant abuse in their hallways.

With a new school year upon us, and in light of these schools that are still behind the times, perhaps it’s a good time to revisit ways to help your child protect themselves from bullying at school and elsewhere.

A few of the best changes on the bullying front have been to:

  • Take the focus off of “bullying” per se and put it on creating a “safe school climate” for all students and adults instead.
  • Require schools to deal with abusive acts even if they occur off school grounds (i.e. cyber-bullying).
  • Require the schools to notify the parents of both the bully and the victim of the issue.

All steps in the right direction, but I’m a firm believer that parents should not simply rely on the schools to handle the situation. Parents should take proactive steps to teach their children how to deal with bullying and other abusive situations. Here are a few guidelines to get you started:

Help your child learn to be assertive.

Bullies predominantly pick on people who display “victim” type behavior. Looking down at the floor all the time, weak voice, slumped shoulders and small shuffling steps are typical behaviors of children who have the “victim” mentality. These are learned behaviors. Children simply are not born this way. Encourage your child to keep their chin up, look into the eyes of whomever they are speaking with, speak in a strong confident voice and walk with confidence. If your child has problems in these areas, character building activities like the martial arts are excellent for overcoming the “victim mentality.”

Make sure your child is comfortable talking with you about important issues.

In my Life Coaching practice, I’ve had parents come to me bewildered as to why their children wouldn’t come to them to discuss important issues like being abused at school, drugs and relationships. Through further discussions with the children and the parents, I find out that the parents regularly yell and scream at their children, demean them by using phrases such as “What’s wrong with you?” and “Why can’t you get anything right?”, excessively punish them, etc.  Is it any wonder that these children would be uncomfortable and even afraid to discuss things with their parents? They have learned what to expect from such conversations. Parents, learn to control your own fears and emotions and have open, calm and supportive discussions with your children. This will go a long way toward them trusting you enough to discuss the really important issues in their lives.

Role Play with your children

Role playing is a great way to help kids learn new skills and show them new options. Try giving your child responses to various types of bullying situations. Give them stock phrases to respond with if necessary. Be sure that every scenario ends with your child telling you about the incident. This is crucial — children should not be left to deal with these issues themselves. If the situation warrants, the parent should then contact the school (and never the parents of the bully). For ideas on how to respond to various situations, see my Patch article titled

Teach your children how to safely use the Internet

You didn’t simply hand your child their first bicycle and say “go figure it out for yourself,” did you? Of course not. Their first bike had training wheels, and then when you took those off you stood beside them holding on to the bike. Next you would let go for a few moments while running beside them and finally, you let them off on their own. The Internet is no different. Teach your children how to use it safely. If you don’t know, then learn! That’s part of being a parent. The Internet is not evil, but it has the potential to be dangerous, just like a bicycle. With just a little bit of help, your child will be able to navigate the Internet safely and reap the rich rewards it has to offer. For ideas around this topic, see my Patch article .

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