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file9381273099223.jpgFrom: "Bully-Proofing Our Kids"
by Michele Borba, Ed.D.


1. 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.


Here are a few:


  • Assert yourself. Teach your child to face the bully by standing tall and using a strong voice. Your child should name the bullying behaviour and tell the aggressor to stop: “That’s teasing. Stop it.” or “Stop making fun of me. It’s mean.”
  • Question the response. Ann Bishop, who teaches violence prevention curriculums, tells her students to respond to an insult with a nondefensive question: “Why would you say that?” or “Why would you want to tell me I am dumb (or fat) and hurt my feelings?”
  • Use “I want.” Communication experts suggest teaching your child to address the bully beginning with “I want” and say firmly what he wants changed: “I want you to leave me alone.” or “I want you to stop  teasing me.”
  • Agree with the teaser. Consider helping your child create a statement agreeing with her teaser. Teaser; “You’re dumb.” Child: “Yeah, but I’m good at it.” or Teaser: “Hey, four eyes.” Child: “You’re right, my eyesight is poor.”
  • Ignore it. Bullies love it when their teasing upsets their victims, so help your child find a way to not let his tormentor get to him. A group of fifth graders told me ways they ignore their teasers: “Pretend they’re invisible,” “Walk away without looking at them,” “Quickly look at something else and laugh,” and “Look completely uninterested."


2. Teach a bully-proofing strategy

What may work with one child may not with another, so it’s best to discuss a range of options and then choose the one or two your child feels most comfortable with.


  • Make Fun of the Teasing. Fred Frankel, author of Good Friends Are Hard to Find suggests victims answer every tease with a reply, but not tease back. The teasing often stops, Frankel says, because the child lets the tormentor know he’s not going to let the teasing get to him (even if it does). Suppose the teaser says, “You’re stupid.” The child says a rehearsed comeback such as: “Really?” Other comebacks could be: “So?,” “You don’t say,” “And your point is?,” or “Thanks for telling me.”


3. Rehearse the strategy with your child

Once you choose a technique, rehearse it together so your child is comfortable trying it. The trick is for your child to deliver it assuredly to the bully-and that takes practice. Explain that though he has the right to feel angry, it’s not okay to let it get out of control. Besides, anger just fuels the bully. Try teaching your child the CALM approach to defueling the tormentor.


  • C - Cool down. When you confront the bully, stay calm and always in control. Don’t let him think he’s getting to you. If you need to calm down, count to twenty slowly inside your head or say to yourself, “Chill out!” And most importantly: tell your child to always get help whenever there is a chance she might be injured.
  • A - Assert yourself. Try the strategy with the bully just like you practiced.
  • L - Look at the teaser straight in the eye. Appear confident, hold your head high and stand tall.
  • M - Mean it! Use a firm, strong voice. Say what you feel, but don’t be insulting, threaten or tease back.

What is Bullying?

Posted by teachontarioteam Jul 24, 2015

iStock_000012129142Small.jpgEvery seven minutes a child is bullied at school, but often parents don't even know their child is a victim because kids are too scared to tell. Therefore, it is up to adults to spot the signs and stop the bullying.


What is bullying?

Bullying can be:

  • physical (e.g.: hitting)
  • emotional (e.g.: name-calling)
  • social (e.g.: spreading false rumours)
  • cyber-based (e.g.: mean text messages)


Today, there is greater understanding of the impact of bullying and how it leads to long-term problems for the child and community. Educational and parenting expert Barbara Coloroso says that bullying is not about anger or conflict but instead it's about contempt for another person.


Bullying has three core elements:

  • humiliation
  • oppression
  • abuse at the hands of one or more peers who have more power than the target.


The most common forms of bullying are name calling and exclusion. Targets are usually smaller than the bully and shy. Boys bully more than girls although girls can be much more malicious. There is a difference between teasing and taunting.


The statistics on bullying:
  • Every seven minutes a child is bullied in the schoolyard.
  • 10% of children endure bullying every day of their lives.
  • 80% of children at school are involved in bullying either as a bully, the one being bullied or a bystander to the bullying.
  • 160,000 students a day in the United States stay home from school for fear of further bullying. The numbers are considered comparable in Canada.


What makes a bully?

That question is harder to answer than it seems. We usually picture a bully as a big mean kid who likes to torture children and small animals. Those bullies do exist but they are few and far between. “It’s so normative and so many kids engage in it that it’s hard to answer what makes a bully,” Tracy Vaillancourt, the Canada Research Chair in Children’s Mental Health and Violence Prevention, says. “What makes one child bully another child? Just being human. Most kids do it at some point in their life. And power corrupts, so many times kids do it because it’s a good way to achieve and maintain popularity.”


What is a bystander?

A bystander is a witness to the bullying who does nothing or eggs the bully on. Bullies love an audience because that’s how they maintain their status and popularity. They want other kids to view them as tough and they derive pleasure from it. Bystanders are considered just as harmful as the bully.


What is indirect bullying?
  • name-calling
  • whispering and note writing campaigns
  • gossip and spreading rumors
  • shunning
  • cyber-bullying


Signs that your child is a target:
  • Your child used to like to go to school but doesn’t anymore.
  • Your child used to be happy and isn’t anymore.
  • Your child does not seem to have any friends. If your child never gets invited to birthday parties there is a problem.



What to tell your kids if they are bullied:
  • It’s not your fault.
  • You're not alone. We will fix this together.
  • Reassure them that there are things they can do but you will do them together.
  • Tell the teacher.
  • Tell a person who cares.


What parents should do:
  • Look at your own behaviour—you set the tone for expectations of treatment. Make sure you walk the walk.
  • Be proactive instead of reactive.
  • Talk to your kids about their friendships. Ask them who they sat beside at lunch and who they played with at recess. Your child’s friendships are just as important as their academic achievements.
  • Some children are bullied by their teachers. If that is the case, schedule a meeting with the teacher and the principal. Teach your children to build healthy relationships.
  • Teach your kids to not be a bystander by just walking away. Bullies love an audience and often they’ll stop if they don’t have one.
  • Listen to the targeted child and let them take part in the resolution to the bullying. They know the situation better than you do.
  • Open your eyes to the fact that your child could be a bully. Be as open to the idea that your child might be the victimizer as you are that they are a victim. You need to send clear messages at home as to your expectations on how people should treat each other.
  • Be aware of the Safe Schools Act and what will happen if your child is a bully.
  • Read "Tips on Dealing with Bullying" for real-world strategies to teach your child.


What the school are doing:
  • Most school boards offer workshops where teachers learn how to recognize the signs of bullying and how to combat bullying in the classroom, hallways and playground.
  • Teachers are communicating with each other on how to deal with aggression in schools.
  • Many schools also have peer mediation programs that encourage students to talk out their problems with their peers.
  • Research into the topic continues at universities and research institutions worldwide.
  • Many researchers and authors are speaking with schools and parent group to combat bullying.
  • Every parent and community member should be able to deal with bullying in their own communities.


You can stop bullying if you stay aware, engaged and treat people with dignity and respect. Your kids will learn from you how people should be treated and won't stand for anything less.

  • “Jack, 9, is often impatient and mean with his four year old sibling.”iStock_000003063200XSmall.jpg
  • “Kevin, 6, always assumes others do everything to him on purpose, and reacts aggressively when it’s usually accidents.”
  • "Alexa, 12, is increasingly disrespectful at home, and defiantly talks back more and more often.”


Do any of these stories sound familiar?


Many parents ask me why children and adolescents seem to have a knack of turning small annoyances into big problems, and if anything can be done to help them grow up.  Until recently, we thought parents just needed to be patient and handle the ups and down of childhood as constructively as possible.


The last decade of research, however, has revealed that the parenting and learning context we provide for young children can actually boost some of their brain development. New conversational methods can be used to skillfully activate relevant brain areas, and increase the likelihood that children will manage their emotions, and think and act in a more mature way. The new and perhaps surprising part is that you don’t necessarily want to have the conversation that teaches your child a lesson at the time of an emotionally loaded incident.


For example, imagine your older child is sitting maliciously on your youngest’s favorite stuffed animal. Since you’ve already asked him twice to leave his sister alone, you find yourself raising your voice and saying “Why in the world are you doing that? Stop right NOW, can’t you see how upset your sister is? What would it be like for you if I sat on your lego construction, huh?...”  We are often tempted to teach a skill during, or right after challenging moments. In my experience working with hundreds of families, parents -  even the ones who are abusive - generally have good intentions but their choice of action does not always have the intended effect.


011373137-little-girl-talking-seriously-.jpgFew parents know that physiologically, when their child experiences intense negative emotions, there is a reduction of blood flow to the more logical and reflective part of the brain (the frontal lobe), and children become less likely to hear and register the crucial life lesson.  Moreover, when adults also become exasperated, children end up having to deal not only with their internal negative emotions but also with those of the adult, when they can’t even handle their own.  As a result, the lesson children do remember is not the one you intended; rather, they conclude that you are mean.

“The brain that generates the poison is the best to find the antidote.” (Beaudoin, 2010). But for your child's brain to find its perfect antidote, it needs to focus on the internal experience of the struggle, and sort things out, instead of focusing on surviving your adult anger.  There are real constructive ways adults can ask children gentle questions which allow them to articulate, explain, explore, think and take mental steps, questions your child can hear in the moment. So you can say things like:


  • “Honey, please stop this. What’s going on with you? Help me understand why you’re doing this.”
  • “I can see that you have a lot of mad feelings right now, and they’re getting you to hurt your sister. How about we take a break and calm ourselves down, then we’ll talk.”


After the storm, an important job begins: relentlessly and purposely observing your child’s behaviours until you notice a glimpse of the very skill you’d like to support.  For example, you can try saying something like: “Hey, if you have the temptation to sit on her favourite stuffy again, and manage to not do it, can you let me know? I’d love to hear about how you control those mad feelings. I’m sure you do it sometimes since it’s not always easy to have a little sister." overprotective_quiz_460x260.jpg


Or with children like Kevin and Alexa above, “It would have been easy to be mad at me today when I picked you up late from school, but you weren’t, and I appreciate your patience."  Noticing a child’s effort offers a truly golden opportunity to boost, articulate, support and develop the child’s burgeoning skills and invisible neural network.


"Children become who they practice to be." (Beaudoin, 2014).  From a brain development standpoint, noticing allows repeating.  It is often more effective to develop a skill contrary to a problem, than to try eliminating the problem directly.




Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin, Ph.D., has published numerous professional articles and books, including the internationally popular “SKILL-ionaire in Every Child: Boosting Children’s Socio-Emotional Skills Using the Latest in Brain Research”.