Back to school can mean back to bullying for some kids. As children head back to class or enroll for the first time, I asked Rener Gracie, a third-generation master of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and the co-creator of Gracie Bullyproof, "a multimedia confidence and character development program" for some advice on bullyproofing a youngster so they don't fall victim.
LilSugar: How can parents bullyproof their children?
Rener Gracie: Somewhere between 4 and 6 years old, most children start school. Although it can be a huge relief to have someone else look after your child for four to six hours every day, sending your child off to school brings as many troubles as it does conveniences. One such problem that affects every child at one point or another is bullying. The problem is that what may start as simple name-calling or harmless teasing can easily snowball into a path of lifelong torment and drudgery. Here are five simple things to keep in mind to ensure your child is not victimized should they cross paths with an aggressive kid.
Lower the Barrier
Often times children who get bullied think it’s their fault and are reluctant to ask for help from their parents. They feel as though they did something wrong and that they deserve the physical or verbal abuse that is being directed to them. The most effective way to ensure your child will be comfortable asking for help if they are targeted by a bully is to make it a regular discussion topic around the house. Casual discussion topics such as what behaviors constitute bullying and why bullies harass other kids will help demystify bullying so that it is easy to discuss in a time of need.
Watch For Signs
Since your child may or may not tell you when they are getting bullied, it’s critical that you pay close attention to any behavioral changes that suggest your child might be getting bullied. If you notice any of these indicators: depression, weakened appetite, lowered enthusiasm, or sudden drops in self-esteem, you should ask your child if someone is bothering them at school and let them know that you want to help.
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If you discover that your child is being bullied, it is critical that you do not downplay the situation. Immediately set an appointment to speak to school administrators and ask that the parent of the bully be contacted and notified of the situation. Arrange for your child’s teacher to notify you of incidences going forward.
The most effective deterrent to bullying is confidence. Teach your child to speak assertively, make eye contact, and walk strong, when targeted by a bully. The best way to do this is to role play with your child. Come up with a fake derogatory name like “cantaloupe,” and then use it to simulate “bullying” situations with your child. Correct them carefully and praise them lavishly when they respond to the harassment correctly. Once their responses to these at-home bullying sessions become second nature, they’ll have nothing to worry about.
Help the Weak
Another great way to increase your child’s preparedness for bullies is to teach them how to recognize when others are being targeted. Teach your child what to watch out for, and how to help if they suspect that another child is being bullied. They should be able to tell the bully to stop with lines like, “Hey, cut it out!” and they should always report any incidences of bullying to a teacher or school administrator. By proactively helping others, they will make more friends, and they will be more prepared when they are targeted directly.
At one point or another, every child will be targeted by a bully, but if you teach your child how to walk strong and you keep the communication lines open, you should be able to put an end to torment and ensure a happy, prosperous, bully-free future for your child.