How to Deal With A Bully

Strategies to Teach Your Child

Being the victim of a bully is painful for children. Teach them the six steps of dealing with bullying.

Step One: Ignore Rude Behavior

We need to teach our children to ignore rude behavior unless it becomes a pattern. Now, since you have taken the time to read information on how to deal with a bully, I have to assume you are in a situation of repeated offenses, which is the definition of bullying. But I include this here for an important reason, so don't leave me yet.

We obviously don't want kids to become tattle-tales, which are passive-aggressive mini-bullies who look for opportunities to get others in trouble for any indiscrition they can find. Now, when TRUE bullying is reported, an accusation often leveled at the victim is that they are overly sensitive, or tattle tales, or such.

The difference lies in whether or not the behavior is repeated. How much is too much? Well, it if involves punching or stealing, one time is too many. If it is more minor, I think three times is plenty.

But we need to teach our kids that we will all be subject to rude or rejecting behavior sometime. Sometimes it is a matter of misunderstanding, or someone accidentally being overlooked, or the words that tumbled out of someone's mouth were uglier than they meant them to be.

So we overlook it the first time. This will end a lot of life's little conflicts. We might even ignore it a second time. Third time around, there is a problem that needs to be dealt with.

Step Two: Diffuse With Explanation or Humor (Certain Situations)

This step is not appropriate for many situations, but it may be appropriate for a child who has a unique feature that other children are unsure of how to handle. For instance, if your child has very thick classes and he or she tells you that they have encountered difficult or embarassing situations in different settings, this might be appropriate.

The child with thick glasses can give short explanations to their peers to help them adjust to the difference. They might say, "The muscles in my eyes are weak." If they are teased about their glasses, they might respond with, "All the better to see you with."

This step should be adjusted to fit your child's situation. Again, this is not THE strategy to deal with serious bullying. But if your child has a feature that makes them stand out, help them find ways to give simple explanations to kids as they enter new groups.

Step Three: Verbally Identify Behavior You Don't Like

This is where many of you reading this article will need to start. If they have been subjected to rude or discriminating behavior several times, they need to verbalize what specific behavior that should stop. There are two things about this step that should be pointed out. First, there's the learn-from-life phenomenon. We have all been in situations that got out of hand and we didn't handle it in the best way. Take those situations, think long and carefully about them. Think of what could have done, if you had known it was going to happen. Next time you are in a similar situation, you will be prepared. We gain wisdom from this learn-from-life strategy.

At this point, we are teaching the learn-from-life strategy to our child. Together think through how you should tell the bully what you don't want him/her to do.

This is not a matter of reprimanding them by saying, "This is what you SHOULD have said." Instead, you are saying, "If it happens again, say ....."

It is also important to realize that for some mean kids, they really DO need this corrective statement. They tend to be self-centered and oblivious to the impact of their behavior.

If your child is in a severe bullying situation, this step is likely not going to end it. But again, it is important for them to learn it. Once they have been the victim of a bully once, it is likely that they may be bullied again later. This step will put an end to future bullying scenarios if taken up at the beginning.

However, if problem behavior persists past this point, you do indeed have real bullying behavior going on and parental involvement is needed. This article on this page teaches your child how to deal with bullying. It is only one step that you as a parent should take. The bottom of this page will give links to other steps you can take for your child.

Step Four: Emphatically reinforce limits

At this level, we move past statements about what "I" don't like, and clearly set limits on what "you" are and are not allowed to do. Tone is everything. The statements should be loud and clear.

Speaking of loud, that DOES mean making the statement loud enough for the teacher or leader to hear.

If behavior has been continuous, they can also use terms indicating that: This step will end most instances of bullying when applied with an emphatic enough tone. It also alerts those in authority that inappropriate behavior is happening at this instant (more info on when and how to report bullying is linked to below.)

Like the other steps, it helps if parents take the time to role play or practice the verbal statements.

Step Five: Planning Retorts to Insults

If your child is subject to insults, it may also help to know how to respond to those insults.

One day a friend was making fun of me for my big feet. Her mother came to my defense. She told how she was made fun of for her big feet when she was young, but her mother taught her to say, "I'd rather have my big feet than your big mouth." Several weeks later, another girl was teasing me because she said I had a big butt. I quickly retorted, "I would rather have my big butt, than your big mouth!" That was the end of all my childhood insults, which had been abundant up to that point. Thank you, Mrs. L!

I have shared my short (and true) story with quite a few children whose teary eyes lit up with laughter at that punch line. And I offer it to any kid (or adult) who finds themselves at the butt of a bully's insults or taunting.

I would rather have my ......, than your big mouth.

I would rather be ....... (dumb, fat, ugly, etc) than hateful like you (or mean, nasty, etc.)

And to one of the cruelest statements, "No one likes you," they can respond,

"I don't want people like you to like me."

The shorter the retort, the better. Such retorts have stopped some verbal bullies dead in their tracks.

One of the nasty things about bullies, is they sometimes take other people's retorts, and tearfully go tell the teacher what their victim has said, effectively reversing the roles and getting the innocent child in trouble. Have your child practice their line with you, and if they need to say it to the bully, they can repeat it word for word to the teacher. Go back and read those statements, and you will find that they are worded in such a way as to make it obvious who started the insult.

Step Six: Tell Appropriate Authorities

Your child needs to know there is a time to get help. Any time the bullying is physical, they need to tell immediately. When non-violent methods of bullying are repeated and don't stop when the child uses these strategies, they need to tell. Let then know you are their advocate and you can help them determine when report. In general, if you are wondering if you should tell, you should. The main page on bullying lists more information on informing authorities.

Parental Involvement

The first five steps will end the majority of cases of bullying, particularly if applied early in the bullying episode. However, you may be in a situation that is more severe. This can occur when a larger number of kids is involved, when the bullying has gone on for a long period of time, when a child has had repeated cycles of rejection, or when the balance of power is really against them. In those situations, you need to intervene with and for your child. However, these six steps are still important for him or her to learn. You will hot always be at their side, and they may need to use these strategies in their current or in a future situation.

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