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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are strategies I can teach my child to prevent him from being bullied?

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  • Emma Thompson


    Emma has over 10 years experience working with women, children, young people and their families in a variety of roles. This includes significant experience working … View Profile

    This really depends on the age of your child. However research has found that the biggest quality that helps a child to deal with bullying is resilience. Some of the important skills that help people develop resiliency can be learned.

    A good starting point is to look at your child's thinking patterns - do they tend to be optimistic or pessimistic? Pessimists tend to believe that when bad things happen it is permanent, because of them and that nothing they do will make a difference. Optimists believe that bad things are temporary and an opportunity to learn.
    You can encourage optimistic thinking in your child by:

    • Look for the positive: Foster an optimistic outlook at home, this might involve asking everyone to share a good thing that happened to them that day when you are all sitting around eating dinner. Share good news stories.
    • Confront negative thinking: When you notice your child verbalising negative thoughts (think: “I don’t have any friends”, or “I’m not good at anything”) point this out and help them reframe the thought. Remind them of the things they are good at. A great activity for the older child is to keep a journal for a week and write down all the negative things they think are going to happen at the beginning of each day. When they go back at the end of the day and realise most of their predictions didn’t come true this can really help.
    • Mistakes are learning opportunities: Give your child permission to fail and reinforce that it’s ok to make mistakes. Deal with mistakes optimistically
    • Encourage problem solving thinking: Help your child think through outcomes of any situation before making a decision. Pose what if questions to encourage your child to think about consequences, list the pros and cons to help your child weigh up the positives and negatives, and help your child to identify the worst thing that could happen so they can weigh up if it’s all that bad.
    • Acknowledge a positive attitude: Reinforce and point out when you notice your child verbalising a positive outlook.
    For the younger child, quick tips for parents:
    • teach your child to deal with rejection - reinforce poise and dignity, even when it is painful
    • teach social skills - watch how your child interacts with others, are there areas where they can improve? Give them an opportunity to practice social skills with you
    • If your child is at risk of bullying at school, provide an opportunity to build friendships through extracurricular activities: sport, music, etc. This builds resilience.
    Some useful books:
    What to Do…When Kids Are Mean to Your Child, Elin McCoy
    Nurturing Resilience in Our Children: Answers to the Most Important Parenting Questions, Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein
    Playground Politics: Understanding the Emotional Life of YOur School-Age Child, Stanley I. Greenspan

  • 2


    Passionate about the counselling field, and how we can constantly improve ourselves to be the best we can be. I have ten years experience working … View Profile

    Bullying behaviours are usually an indication that children have not had the opportunity to learn appropriate behaviours when interacting with other children. According to Rigby 2006, bullying is the intentional act of causing harm and unhappiness to others through harassment, physical assult, cyber assult, or other more subtle methods of coercion such as manipulation. Further the harassment can be verbal, physical or / and emotional. Bullying is a pattern of behaviours, where the bully who has anger/ aggression, coupled with the lack of social skills, chooses to displace thier aggression and dominanace onto the victim. So having a clear unnderstand of why this happens, is important, and therefore children need to be taught why these bullying behaviours happen in the first place. From my experience with working with children educating them about these dynamics, helps them understand why and therefore they do not take the experience personally. This is very important for them to know, because the child is still in thier formative years of development and being a victim of bullying can have significant negative effects upon thier self-esteem and also impact on their develolpment.

    Because Bullying is about social dominance, the bully usually looks for children who are withdrawn and passive in thier communication style, and quite often these children want to avoid confrontation at all costs. So Learning more effective coping skills or strategies can help the victim respond to the bully, whereby the cylcle of bullying can be broken. Some strategies that work well are using a sense of humour to diffuse the situation, walking away, or even asking the bully what the problem is, and offering solutions. If the bullying continues, then the victim needs to communicate this to their parents and to the school, and the child should get appropriate support.

    To Prevent a child from being bullied in the first place, I believe, teaching them to be resilient and self esteem building skills are essential. The more high self esteem and confidence a child has, the more likley that they will not allow anyone to bully them. As these skills often need to be taught, I would suggest that teaching them relaxation techniques, where they breath in and count to 5 and then breath out again, whilst saying affirmations to themselves “I am calm and relaxed, I am in control” can increase confidence in themselves. Relaxaton techniques help us stay calm, keeping anxiety away, so I usually recommend that children learn these skills at a very young age. They must practice and repeat these continuously, until the subconscious mind takes over and a habit is formed. Once their confidence increases and are able to be more calm and in control, then they can learn effective communication skills that enables them to behave in an assertive manner when confronting a bully. I usually teach “I ”Statements, this is an assertive skill, where children learn to communicate thier needs in a calm and postive way. There are three parts in delivering an “I”Statement. For example if they are being teased and called names, the “I ”statement is used to address this by 1. stating the problem, which is the name calling, 2. Stating the feelings, annoyed, 3. Stating the solution, I want you to stop now, because i dont like it, If you do not stop, I will tell on you.

    So the complete “I ”statement would go like this“: When you call me names, It makes me feel annoyed, I want you to stop right now, because I dont like it, If you do not stop, I will tell on you.” I also teach children the appropriate body language when delivering an I statement. They need to stand straight with thier hands to thier side, and look at the bully in the eye, remaining calm and confident and with a firm voice tone. This puts some of the power back into the victims hands, and gives them a choice, where if the bullying continues, in some cases it does not stop, then the victim needs to tell the teachers and thier parents and immediate action needs to be taken to support the victim.

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