Is your child being bullied? Does he complain that about a kid who always pushes him or grab his toy? Or maybe he’s being teased or ostracized, or mercilessly picked on by a group of mean kids who’ve randomly chosen him to be their Victim of the Month?
Bullying can destroy your child’s self-esteem and make him feel powerless. He doesn’t know how to fight back—and at one point, stops believing that he can. Here are some ways to find out if your child is being bullied, and how to help him assert himself.
1. Find out if your child is being bullied
Children won’t always open up. However, their behavior can alert you to a problem. They may have trouble sleeping or look for ways to avoid school. They can complain of
chronic complaints of headaches or stomach aches. Their grades may go down, or they may seem withdrawn, anxious, stressed.
Observe your child, and when in doubt, go to your child’s school and—from a distance—watch how he interacts with his peers in the playground. You may also want to talk to the teachers.
2. Encourage your child to share his feelings
Bullying leaves a deep emotional impact. You can charge to the school and raise hell at the teacher’s office but that doesn’t erase the feelings of insecurity or loneliness that already burdens your child.
Help your child express what he’s feeling. Don’t brush off his concerns (‘Oh, just tell the bully to stop!’) or rush in with solutions. Just listen, ask how he feels, hug and comfort him. You can also encourage your child to keep a journal, read books on bullying (it will help him feel less alone) or if you’re really worried, you can bring him to a child psychologist who can help him process the experience through art and play therapy.
3. Build your child’s self-confidence.
Yes, you have to teach him to ‘stand up’ to bullies but not in the way that you think. Signing him up for martial arts (or any sports) can help him become physically stronger, but even if he never throws a punch he stops feeling ‘powerless’ or ‘victimized’ because he knows he can fight back if he wanted to. You can also encourage him to sign up for any workshop or after-school activity where he can meet different people and get used to interacting with them in different social situations.
4. Teach him a ‘Back off’ script
Role-play with your child on what he can say or do if someone bullies him. A child who is better prepared to face the bully has better chances of standing up to him than a child caught off guard. Teach your child to tell a bully to stop and leave him alone. You can even come up with witty one-liners that will let him put a bully in his place without actually kicking or punching. After all, there is a big difference between blindly fighting back (which could get him in trouble with the school, too) and standing up for oneself in the right way.
5. Teach him proper body language.
Show him how to make eye contact and use a strong and confident voice. A child who is less intimidated will not make a good target for bullies.