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4 Skills to End Bullying
Every day thousands of kids wake up and dread going to school. You might think they just have some anxiety, or they don’t want to do the work, but the reality is that many of them are afraid. They are afraid of what their tormentors are going to do to them today. We can all admit that bullying is bad and that no one should be bullied. However, do we even notice when someone is being bullied? And if so, do we step in? Many adults, teachers, parents, etc. miss the signs of bullying and can’t see how extreme it can get.
Bullying happens when someone picks on another person relentlessly, either alone or in a group. They may pick on their victim because of their differences. Perhaps their target is quiet and withdrawn, maybe they are from a different country, or a different religion, maybe they look different, or have a different sexual orientation. Whatever the reason, bullies will attack their victims verbally (verbal insults, face to face confrontations, cruel notes passed), psychologically (gossiping, spreading rumours, excluding from groups or events), or even physically (shoving, hitting, punching, and even sexual assault). Verbal bullying can also include cyberbullying (sending cruel messages over the internet or through text).
How does the victim feel?
The worst part of bullying is how relentless it is. Most people can shrug off name calling, or an unpleasant confrontation once or twice. However, the longer it goes on, the more it breaks down their confidence. This constant bullying can drive them into a state of perpetual fear.
Victims of bullying can find that their grades and health begin to suffer. Additionally, they are at a greater risk of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. Bullying is serious.
Who are the perpetrators?
Anyone can be a bully. Any age, any gender, any religion, any race. A bully can appear aggressive and brash, but they can also be quiet and manipulative. Bullies are often self-centred — and though they may seem to think that they’re the best, they are actually quite insecure. Putting others down makes them feel powerful and interesting.
So what can you do?
Children and teens who witness or experience bullying should tell a trusted adult. Especially if the situation threatens to lead to danger or physical harm. Many a student has died as a result of threats and attacks that went unreported. Silence only gives the bully more power. Adults in power-positions are often able to address the situation without the bully ever finding out how they know.
Teach your kids and teens these 4 skills to help diffuse bullying situations that don’t present a threat of physical danger:
Skill 1: Be Aware, Calm, Respectful, and Confident.
A bully is less likely to target someone who is confident, calm, respectful, and aware. Teach your kids to project a positive but assertive attitude. This looks like walking with your head high, shoulders back, and walking with purpose. Keeping aware of your surroundings helps you notice problems quicker so that you can deal with them sooner.
Show your kids the difference between passive body language, and assertive body language. Have them practice their walk, their tone of voice, and choice of words. Offer them feedback like “Take bigger steps” or “look around you” — and be encouraging.
Skill 2: Just walk away.
Teach your kids that the most effective self-defence is called “target denial” which is just a fancy way of saying “don’t be there”.
Confront your kids, pretend to be a bigger kid and bullying. Have them veer around you or move out of reach when you approach them. They should be assertive and positive in the way that they leave. Teach them to say something like “See you later!” or “Have a nice day!” in a normal tone of voice, as they walk away.
Skill 3: Speak up.
Often, bullies don’t want to draw attention so yelling or making a commotion draw attention to a potentially unsafe situation.
Teach your kids to pull away from a bully and start yelling “STOP! LEAVE! HELP!” Really loudly. Teach them to stand tall, to look in the bully’s eyes, and use a firm voice. Remind them to report any incidents immediately.
Skill 4: Be persistent.
We always tell our kids to get help from an adult if they are being bullied, but what if that adult is busy? Teach them to be persistent in getting that adults attention and help.
Have your kids rehearse the kinds of things they would say to a busy adult, something like “Excuse me, I have a safety issue.” You can practice ignoring them, and have them continue to try and get your attention. It’s important that you teach your kids to use a strong and calm voice. Additionally, teach them how to respond if the adult throws out a cliche response like “I’m busy!” or “Just stay away from them”. Have them respond to that adult saying something like “Please, listen to me. This is important.” Your kids need to know that even if an adult in charge doesn’t seem to listen, or starts blaming, it is not your kid’s fault. They have right to feel safe, and it is the adult’s job to help.
Ending bullying is not just one person’s job, everyone has to work together to set standards that don’t allow for bullying. Children and teens need to speak up, and adults need to be aware, intervene, and set a good example. Everyone has the right to feel safe, and everyone has the responsibility to act respectfully and safely towards others.
Face Bullying With Confidence: 8 Kidpower Skills We Can Use Right Away