Bullies look for children who are in some way more vulnerable than other children. This can either be physically or emotionally. These children also tend to be more sensitve and quiet, and they may have characteristics that make them “stand out” from others.
Since some children will be picked on for characteristics they cannot or even should not change, it is important for adults to teach children not to allow themselves to be bullied. All children need tools to help them solve problems peacefully and respectfully. Every incident is a problem that can be solved. Even it does not stop the bully from trying to bully, it can stop the hurt caused by it.
This is the first in a three part series that will look at skills and techniques children can use to avoid being a “easy target.”
The first skills are ones that all children should be capable of doing – report, avoid, walk away and ignore.
It is crucial that children learn that they need to tell adults when they are being bullied or when they see it happening. By reporting the incident to a trusted adult, the child can get help to stop the bully from harming them or someone else. Some children are embarrased or afraid to report bullying. It needs to be impressed uopon them that it is OK to ask for help from an adult. Explain to them that everyone needs help sometimes, and that seeking help is the first step in dealing with the problem.
Avoiding has two parts to it. One is to remind children not to fight back when bullied. If they fight back, they could get hurt or blamed for starting the trouble.
The second is avoid places where the bully will have and easier time of picking on them. Teach children not to be alone in places where they are likely to run into the bully. There is great power in numbers, and a bully is less likely to go after someone when there are witnesses around. It is also important that children stick with friends who will stick up for them.
Children should also be able to identify and learn to avoid “hot spots” of bullying activity. These are places that are isolated or hidden from the view of adults. Some examples of hot spots are bathrooms, isolated hallways, hidden corners of the playground, and locker rooms – anywhere an adult is not easily accessed.
Finally, help children to identify the bully “hangouts.” An alternate route around these places may be needed so children will avoid running into a bully. This can be on the walk home, a specific store en route to and from school, or even an area at school itself.
WALK AWAY AND IGNORE
The words speak for themselves, but sometimes it can be hard to do. Explain to children that a bully cannot bully them if they do not stand still and listen to it. Help children learn that it is sometimes best to turn away and walk towards a safe place or person. Running is OK, too! Ignoring also involves tunning it out. The words may be there, but that does not mean they have to listen to them.
Each of these skills are pretty self-explanatory, but remember children who are being bullied need extra support and encouragement. Simply talking about these skills is just the beginning. By role-play bullying situations and practice using these skills in them, children can learn how to use them effectively and also build their confidence in taking the stpes towards protecting themselves.