Around this time each summer, many parents and children begin to get worried about returning to school and the potential for getting bullied again like last year. The summer offers a respite from school bullies, but does this break from bullying have to end because the summer ends?
Schools today offer massive anti-bullying campaigns that dominate our current culture, and yet many students continue to feel bullied and bullying prevalence rates are not dropping. Perhaps part of the reason for this is that the current anti-bullying campaign focus on decreasing bullying by policing the bullies, with little emphasis on empowering the victims.
Bullying is highly emotional issue and yet it’s one that requires a rational response and a problem-solving approach to effectively disarm bullies. Responding emotionally only empowers bullies and disempowers victims, resulting a cycle of bullying that’s hard to break. Instead, adopting a problem solving approach emphasizes arming bully victims with choices of rational responses to use when confronted with bullying.
Using a problem-solving approach, parents can teach a child to believe that the bully and not the victim has the problem and that by bullying, the bullies are attempting to draw the bully victim into their problems. Using these 10 strategies, a child can choose not to engage in bully’s problems and instead feel empowered to remain confident and intact despite the bully’s mean behavior.
1. Use perspective. Summertime offers students the chance to gain distance and perspective from life during the school year. Perspective means the ability to see life events differently, often allowing more a positive outlook. With increased perspective children are in good position to adopt a different view of the bullying situation and how they want to handle themselves in it.
2. Use reverse brainwashing. Tell a child that he has been brainwashed to believe that he has the problem and that the bully has the power. The more a child hears these messages the more he will believe them, especially when he has the distance and perspective that the summer offers.
3. Drill down. Ask your child to describe in detail the bullying situations that have occurred in the past, forcing him to confront his fears and not avoid them. By reliving these experiences, a child has the opportunity to overcome his anxiety associated with them and begin to view himself differently in the situations where he was most fearful. Respond in a non-judgmental and supportive fashion with the goal being for him to communicate and express his fears that then will no longer sit stagnant in the fear center of his brain.
4. Identify and practice assertive body language. Choose pictures of people online who appear assertive versus those that look weak and passive. A child can imitate assertive poses and video tape himself acting out these poses. This will allow him to internalize images of his assertive self.
5. Role play the bullying situations. Role plays with peers, adults or with siblings where a child practices using assertive non verbal body language to react to the bullying. A child can practice standing up for himself in the role plays using the techniques outlined here.
6. Teach your child the power of positive thinking. This involves teaching him that he holds the power to decide whether he wants to engage in the bullying or not. He can decide to keep his power and choose how to act even when someone else is putting him down and being mean to him.
7. Arm him with a mantra. A mantra can help a child to control his emotions in a bullying situation, such as, “I don’t like this but I can handle it”; “I don’t believe what the bully is saying about me”; “I have a lot of strengths” and “He needs to do this because he feels worse than me.”
8. Teach him visualization. Visualization allows a child to take himself to another place when the bullying is occurring. He controls where his mind is focused. For example, he can pretend he is made of Teflon and that the bullying words will bounce off his skin. His attitude is what controls him, not what happens outside of him.
9. Teach him to be assertive. If he is elementary school age teach him to speak out loud about the things that are happening that make him feel bullied. Examples include “You just pushed my chair”; “You just cut in front of me in line” or “Quit shoving me”. Help him practice speaking loudly so that a teacher can hear him and this will allow him to make his point without being a tattle tale and show others that he knows how to stand up for himself.
10. Have him adopt a belief that the bully is unhappy Teach your child to view the bully as someone who feels badly about him or herself. In response to being bullied, teach him to respond with “Are you alright?” outwardly questioning the bully’s well-being.
You can help your child to tackle their fear of bullies this summer! There’s still a month before school gears up and it’s the perfect time to arm your child with a set of cognitive weapons to combat their fears of bullies. Belief, practice and modeling will make all the difference!