6 Ways to Bully-Proof Your Child (Pt. 1)
You can’t purge your child’s world of bullies, but even young kids can learn skills that will help them avoid being pushed around. Want to bully-proof your child? Here’s how.
1. Teach confident posture and speech
Kids can learn a lot about confident speech and body language by watching TV or movies with you. “Make a game of identifying the different tones of voice,” says Michele Borba, educational psychologist and author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. “Ask your child, ‘Is that character using a strong voice or a soft voice?'” You can also point out how some characters look down a lot or walk with their shoulders slumped forward and how that makes them look vulnerable.
Like it or not, you also provide an example to your child. If parents don’t behave confidently, their children won’t either. If someone cuts in front of you in line at the grocery store, use it as a chance to model assertive language: “Excuse me, but I was standing here first.”
2. Role-play speaking up for yourself
If a child can say what he feels and can ask for what he wants, he’ll be far less likely to be the target of a bully. Borba suggests sitting in the sandbox with your child and modeling how to react in different situations: “Teach him to say, ‘No, I don’t want to’ and ‘It’s my turn now.’ Some other useful phrases are ‘Cut it out,’ ‘Stop,’ and ‘Back off.'”
You can show your child how to express his opinion while respecting the other person. Teach tactful phrases like “That’s one way to do it, but here’s what I think.”
Bullied children can become their own worst enemies because they may start to feel they deserve it. A helpful tool for overcoming bullying before it escalates is self talk. Teach your child confidence-boosting phrases like “I don’t have to do this” and “That’s not right.”
3. Practice making eye contact
Eye contact is a simple way to convey confidence, and it’s never too soon to teach it. It’s up to you to model making eye contact. Whenever possible, look your child in the eye when talking to her.
In social settings, you can play a game with your child. Ask her, “What color eyes does that person have?” Or, put a sticker on your forehead; it creates a specific point for your child to focus on (and makes you look silly, which is a plus for your child). A bonus to making eye contact is that it helps kids keep their head up – another sign of confidence.