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If your child is bullied it means that peers are intentionally causing her pain. If this is happening to your child, please know that your son or daughter is not alone. By some estimates, one in seven American schoolchildren is either a bully or a victim. Reports confirm that bullying is starting at younger ages and is far more frequent and aggressive than ever before.
While you can't always be there to step in and protect your child there are ways to help your son or daughter be less likely to be victimized in the first place. I reviewed hundreds of articles on bullying to find tips to pass onto parents. I also wrote a proposal to end school bullying and violence that became SB1667 and passed into law.
Here are some of those solutions to help your child navigate a vicious social jungle and deal with bullies:
Start the talk now!
Children who are embarrassed or humiliated about being bullied are unlikely to discuss it with their parents or teachers and generally suffer in silence, withdraw and try to stay away from school. So start talking to your child about bullying before it ever happens. Tell your child you are always available and recognize it is a growing problem.
Children need practice to speak up and be assertive so when the moment comes that they do need to stand up to a bully, they can. Always rescuing can create the conditions under which a child can become a victim.
Avoid areas where bullies prey.
Bullying usually happens in unsupervised adult areas such as hallways, stairwells, playgrounds (under trees and equipment, in far corners), lockers, parks and bathrooms in places such as malls, schools, parks and even libraries. Teach your child "hot spots" (places most likely to be frequently by bullies), and then tell him to avoid those areas.
Find a supportive companion.
Kids who have even one friend to confide in can deal with bullying better than those on their own. Is there one kid your child can pair up with? Is there a teacher, nurse, or neighbor he can go to for support?
Take your child seriously.
Reassure your child that you believe him, and stress that you will find a way to keep him safe. 49 percent of kids say they've been bullied at least once or twice during the school term but only 32 percent of their parents believed them.
Determine if it's bullying.
Bullying is always intentional, mean-spirited, rarely happens only once and the victim cannot hold his own. It is not teasing. Establish this is bullying then gather the facts to help your kid create a plan to stop it.
Offer specific tips.
Most kids can't handle bullying on their own: They need your help, so provide a plan. For instance, if bullying is happening on the bus tell your child to sit behind the bus driver on the left side where the driver can see passengers in the mirror, ask an older kid to "watch out" for your child, or offer to pick your child up from school.
Don't make promises.
You may have to protect your child, so make no promises to keep things confidential. You may have to step in and advocate.
Kids who use assertive posture are less likely to be picked on. Stress to your child that he should stand tall and hold his head up to appear more confident and less vulnerable.
Stress: Stay calm.
Bullies love knowing they can push other kids' buttons, so tell your child to try to not let his tormentor know he upset you.
Teach a firm voice.
Stress to your child that if he needs to respond, simple direct commands work best delivered in a strong determined voice: "No." "Cut it out." "No way." "Back off." Then walk away with shoulders held back.
Get help if needed.
Tell your child to walk towards other kids or an adult.
Research finds that arming your child with confidence is one of the best defenses against bullying. A few self-confidence boosters include learning martial arts, boxing, or weight-lifting, finding an avenue--such as a hobby, interest, sport or talent--that she enjoys and can excel, giving her opportunities to solve her problems and speak up for herself.
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Dr. Michele Borba is the author of over 22 books including the upcoming Big Book of Parenting Solutions.