Every school in the country experiences some level of bullying within its four walls. And while a lot is being done to eradicate bullying and improve school climates, bullying will always exist to some degree. As a result, every student needs to develop skills that will keep them from being targeted by bullies. Here are the top eight skills kids need to develop in order to avoid school bullies.
Bullies look for kids that display insecurity, fear, and low self-esteem. How victims respond, how they hold their head, whether they stand tall or are slumped, even the tone of their voice can signal that a kid might make an easy target. What’s more, teaching kids to appear confident is sometimes easier than teaching them to tell the bully to stop or to have a witty comeback.1 Some kids just do not have an assertive bone in their body and if they try to stand up to a bully verbally, it can fail.
Make Eye Contact
Teach your child how to make firm eye contact and send a non-verbal message that says “knock it off.” Remember, eye contact communicates self-confidence and self-esteem. And bullies are more likely to back off if a potential target looks them right in the eye.
Typically, bullies are looking for targets that are anxious, insecure and more likely to look down or avoid eye contact. Teach your child not to be that person.
Let Go of Victim Thinking
When your child holds on to a feeling of injustice, he will begin to chronically feel like a victim. And, if your child feels like a victim, they will act like a victim.2 What’s more, kids that maintain this mindset will begin to see the world as an unjust and unfair place.
Be sure your child knows that being a victim of bullying does not define who they are as a person. Also, to prevent victim-thinking, avoid getting emotionally pulled into how badly your child feels. While it is important to be empathetic and understanding, you should avoid commiserating. Instead, help them find ways to move out of a painful situation and get through it.
Make sure your kids know the difference between aggressive behavior and assertive behavior. For instance, assertive people stand up for their rights and are comfortable defending themselves or others against unfairness. They use a strong and confident voice to get their point across in a respectful manner. Meanwhile, an aggressive person uses control, intimidation, and yelling to get their way.
Be sure your kids know that it is not only acceptable to tell someone no or ask them to stop, but it is encouraged.
Self-esteem is a core component of bullying prevention. Kids with healthy self-esteem are more confident and capable. Self-esteem also can help prevent bullying.3 Bullies are often looking for an easy target—someone who will react to their taunts and teases. As a result, they often steer clear of kids that are comfortable in their own skin. Even if kids with healthy self-esteem are targeted by bullies, they have an easier time coping with the bullying.
Bullies seek out kids who lack connections or who are isolated and target them. Meanwhile, kids who have friends are less likely to be bullied than those who are alone.
Even one significant friend at school can greatly reduce the likelihood that your child will be bullied. And even if your child is still targeted by bullies, having friends will make it easier for them to overcome bullying if it does occur. Friends can reassure your child that the things the bully says or does do not define who your child is.4
Be Aware of Bullying Hot Spots
Make sure your kids know that there are hot spots at school where bullying is more likely to occur. These areas might include the locker room, the bathrooms, the lunchroom, the playground, or the school bus. Even a remote hallway with very little adult supervision may be a prime spot for bullying.1
Help your child identify and think about where these places might be. Then, brainstorm together how these areas might become safer or be avoided altogether. For instance, encourage your child to travel with a buddy or two. Another option is to sit near the front of the school bus and stay in highly visible areas during recess.
Bullies tend to strike when they know adults are not around. So the key to avoiding a known bully is to try to avoid being in that area alone.
Put Responsibility for Bullying Where It Belongs
Most of the time, kids tend to blame themselves when they are bullied. They falsely believe they did something to cause it or that something is wrong with them. As a result, victims often don’t tell anyone about the bullying and try to change how they look or act in order to avoid being bullying.2 Instead, teach kids that bullying is a choice made by the bully. The bully is completely responsible for their actions. No one caused them to behave that way, including your child.
A Word From Verywell
Remember, the first line of defense against bullying is being prepared. For this reason, work with your kids on knowing how to avoid bullies at school and understanding what to do if they are targeted. By doing so, you are not only helping create a barrier of protection, but you are instilling the confidence they need to handle the situation if it arises.