The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: How to handle a bully

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How to handle a bully

My daughter told me about her nephew...  There's a bully in his school (no surprises there, unfortunately) who found out his pet nickname and decided to use it against him.  Her nephew's name is Dustin and when he was little, everyone called him Dust-Bunny.  At three, that's cute; at ten, it's not so appealing.  Anyway, the bully started calling him Dust-Bunny in school.  Dustin didn't care because he said, "It doesn't matter.  I can't change what he thinks, so I just left him alone."  WOW!  What a mature attitude for a ten-year-old.  How often have you told your kids to simply walk away when someone bothers them?  And how often did they listen to that sage advice?  My daughter's nephew is wise beyond his years. 

How can you teach your child the same attitude?  Try helping him or her to understand the nature of a bully.  And then offer your child these explanations:
  1. Bullies behave that way because they want attention.  By walking away, you deny them the attention they want.  
  2. The only attention a bully gets at home is generally negative attention.  To change the bully's attitude, everyone must begin to give him attention for the good things that he or she does.  It may be hard to find that spark of goodness, but it's worth the effort to help the bully feel needed and wanted for something in his or her young life.
  3. Sometimes it isn't enough to ignore the bully.  Occasionally, the bullied child needs to gently and respectfully confront the bully by saying, "Why do you want to do that to me?  What did I do to deserve that?" 
  4. Humor defuses most situations.  Teach your child to laugh and say, "Hey that was funny!  But don't do it again."  The bully will likely take one step backwards and then go the other direction!
What you DON'T want your child to do is confront the bully with more anger and more negative attention.  That will almost always lead to a fight where someone gets hurt.  Bullying is a real problem in schools, but with education and perhaps practice at home, your child can have the emotional armor to protect him or herself from the inevitable bullies.

Here are some resources to help you and your child confront bullying in school:
Happy parenting and happy teaching!

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