Six sensible ways to help kids deal with bullying

Parents can’t always be there to protect their children and stop bullying. But what they can do is equip their children to deal with it with confidence.

Through strategies including how to be a looker rather than a bystander, to deal with the mentality of the crowd, psychotherapist Stella O’Malley explains how to give children the tools they need to feel empowered and able to manage bullies and dominating characters in his Bully-Proof book Kids.

Drawing on many years of experience counseling bullies and their targets, O’Malley also identifies effective ways for families to deal with bullying, including approaching school officials and parents of the bully, and tips for dealing with cyberbullying.

“While we may not always be able to stop bullying completely, if we can reduce the intensity, frequency, impact and negative fallout as a result of bullying it can make a significant difference. for your child,” she said. “It is often perfectly sufficient.

“In a fair world, our children wouldn’t have to deal with bullies and the bully would be punished enough in a way that meant they would never bully again. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a fair world and bullies are often left behind and feel free to target others with impunity.

O’Malley points out that reducing or stopping bullying often takes a lot of commitment and effort on the part of parents. “It can be tough, but in the long run it’s worth it – it’s a lifelong gift for a child to learn how to deal with bullies and other tricky people.”


Bullying usually happens, she explains, because the bully feels inadequate in some way and feels more powerful by making their target feel inadequate, or simply because they are looking for more. to be able to. “Maybe they want to be the masters of the class and feel bored when everyone else doesn’t follow suit and so, like a tyrant king, they go after the dissenters,” she suggests, explaining that parents need to understand exactly what is in the “bullying dynamic” so that they can help their children.

Once they have established why bullying is happening, parents need to identify patterns of behavior and communicate them to their child. “When the child is sufficiently equipped to know why this is happening – what role each child plays in the conflict, the patterns of when it’s worse and when it’s better – then he will have enough knowledge to anticipate the behavior of bullying and taking precautions -empty action.

Such an action could be standing next to a teacher without saying anything, changing position in a queue so they are not easily targeted, or perhaps using their interpersonal skills to distract the bully or rally potential opponents to his side. “None of this is easy,” O’Malley points out, “and it’s important for the parent to explain to the child that this is a worthwhile campaign and that they are ready to stand by their side until they defeat the bully together.”

Here, O’Malley outlines six practical ways to deal with bullying…

1. Make sure you know the full cast of characters

That means knowing who the bully is and who his cronies are — “they’re often more vicious than the bully,” warns O’Malley. Additionally, the bullying target and their parents should identify disengaged bystanders who have no idea what is going on, worried bystanders who feel sorry for the target but are usually too scared to do anything either, and, more importantly, potential upstanders – those willing to stand up to the bully. “Once your child knows who the potential upstanders are, they can make sure the upstander knows what’s going on,” says O’Malley.

2. Help your child become aware of bullying patterns

The bullying may be worse first thing in the morning, online or perhaps last seen in the evening, or the bully may be distracted during certain activities and not bully afterwards. O’Malley says: “Your child needs to know when they feel safest and when they feel most threatened so they can stand with adults or naysayers as they begin to anticipate the pattern. bullying.”

3. Teach your child to access their strong voice and body

A child’s “strong voice” is a pitch lower than their usual voice, and “strong body” means pulling their shoulders back and feeling strong, says O’Malley. “That doesn’t mean they have to fight back necessarily,” she explains, “more that they realize they have strength within them and can access it at any time.”

She says children and young people may need to practice saying ‘no’ and using their strong voices and bodies at home, as this is not what they are used to. “Sometimes the strongest thing to do is say ‘no’ in a low voice and walk away. There are many ways to cut the wind from a bully’s sails and it’s not always the obvious approach that works.

4. Practice the answers

Practice scenarios with your child where you play the role of the bully and they practice different responses to anticipated attacks. “It can be done in a light-hearted way,” says O’Malley, “so that the child isn’t tricked into thinking that one cue will solve the situation – on the contrary, a range of intelligent responses will be more likely to improve. . this.”

5. Teach your child how to behave online

This can require a lot of supervision and attention, as few children know what to do when faced with an online ‘stack’, says O’Malley, who explains that there are many ways to respond to attacks. online, including blocking bullies, telling online media platforms about bullying and telling parents of the most decent kids what’s going on.

6. Build a support team

Children shouldn’t be left to suffer in silence with only their parents by their side, stresses O’Malley, who says parents can support children by rekindling old friendships and arranging visits to parents who know and love. the child. “It pulls the child out of the toxic environment and reminds them that there are a lot of people out there who appreciate them,” she says.


Stella O’Malley’s Bully-Proof Kids is published by Swift. Available now.

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