Handling the schoolyard bully

Handling a schoolyard bully is difficult, even for the self-assured, confident child. However, for the child with few friends, a lack of confidence, and a shy persona, the school yard bully is their worst nightmare.

Make no mistake- the bully is studying your child to see if there are aspects of your child’s personality which could potentially make them their next target.

Children who are over reactive, shy, lacking in confidence, or who exhibit body language exacerbating these traits are common candidates for a bully.

‘The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.’ 

Knowledge is power – and without it, children can easily become disempowered, and begin to feel hopeless in the face of bullying. The power children have against bullying is in the skills they are given to protect themselves from the affects of bullying.

What can your child do to avoid bullying?

  • Travel in a group, rather than alone: Bullies’ look for targets’ in children who don’t have a lot of friends, enjoy spending time alone, or travel from group to group, never really attaching to anyone. More friends, means more people to support the child when being bullied.
  • Do not be reactive to the bully: The bully wants their target to engage with the bully. The more reactive the target, the happier the bully.
  • Be confident: Confident children stand tall, walk purposefully, and are generally friendly. Bullies’ almost always target those who aren’t confident, shy away from people, and are easily intimidated. Your child may need to fake it to make in regard to confidence.
  • Report the bullying to a teacher or parent: Bullying needs to be brought out into the open. Without intervention, the bullying will most likely continue, and may have a negative impact on the child’s confidence, self-esteem, and overall well-being. 

What can parents’ do to help their child with bullying? 

  • Give your child the emotional tools to handle the bully: Teach your child about the right to assert themselves, and how to do it properly without making the situation worse. Encourage your child to be a confident communicator, and to stay true to their new found skills. Remind your child that it is absolutely imperative that they do everything they can to stop themselves from being noticed by the bully.
  • Teach your child how to spot a bully: Early detection of a bully is key. This way the child knows when to put their new found skills into practice.
  • Educate your child about common bullying traits: Tell your child about some of your experiences with bullies’, the traits exhibited that were bullying specific, and how you handled this period of your childhood.
  • Encourage your child to observe the children around them: Explain to your child the importance of observing the children around them, and choosing friends’ wisely. Encourage them to watch how their friends’ treat other children, to listen to how they speak about other people, and to believe in what they see.
  • Encourage your child to listen to their gut instincts: Encourage your child to believe in their ability to distinguish a friend from a frenemy.
  • Listen to your child: Make sure your child knows that if they are being bullied, they are never to keep it a secret. Explain to your child the difference between a harmless secret, and a harmful secret.
  • Always take bullying seriously: If your child is being bullied, always contact the school, read up on their policies, and work with the school to put in strategies to improve the situation.

Ask your child about the children they play with: Ask your child about the dynamics in their group of friends’. Ask them who they are friends with, and who the bullies’ are. Always enquire about your child’s engagement with the bully. Remind your child to always be polite to the bully; but to steer clear of a close friendship with this person.

Remind your child: 

  • to be polite to the bully, be confident in the face of the bully, and to limit their engagement with the bully.
  • to be active, not reactive.
  • to refrain from making themselves vulnerable to the bully.
  • that the bully is the one with the problem, not them.
  • to never handle the bully by themselves



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