Bully-Proofing Our Kids

Written by Michele Borba Ed.D.

Expert advice on how to help your children deal with bullies. Parents, get answers to solve this growing problem.

"My son's only seven, but he's been coming home upset everyday. He says a boy named Mark keeps teasing him. Now the rest of the kids won't play with him because they are afraid Mark will start picking on them, too. He's miserable and doesn't want to go to school. What can I do to help him?"

Some of the toughest problems parents must deal with happen right on the school playground where teasing, bullying and mean-spirited kids abound. There seems to be an epidemic of mean-acting kids these days. In fact, the National Education Association estimates that 160,000 children skip school every day because they fear being attacked or intimidated by other students.While we can't prevent the pain insults can cause, we can lessen our kids chances of being bullied.

In my book, Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues That Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing, I tell parents the best thing to do is teach our kids how to deal with their tormentors. Doing so will show them there are ways to resolve conflicts without losing face or resorting to violence and will boost their confidence. So the next time your child is upset from teasing, here's my advice on what you can do:

Listen and gather facts. The first step is often the hardest for parents: listen to your child's whole story without interrupting. Your goal is to try to figure out what happened, who was involved, where and when the teasing took place, and why your child was teased. Unfortunately, teasing is a part of growing up, but some kids seem to get more than their fair share of insults. If your child appears to be in no immediate danger, keep listening to find out how she reacts to the bullying. By knowing what reaction didn't stop the bully, you can offer your child a more effective option.

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