How to bully-proof your child

They lurk in neighborhoods, classrooms, on the playground and in locker rooms. They come in all shapes, sizes and both genders. There is one thing, however, bullies all have in common. They have an insatiable desire to humiliate or harass anyone they perceive as weaker than themselves.

How to bully-proof your child

– Make sure your child has a healthy sense of self-worth, which helps build self-confidence. Children with little self-confidence send out silent signals that can attract bullies. Some of these include poor posture … the head or chin is down, the shoulders are slumped, and they shuffle along as if there is no particular destination in mind.

– Teach your child how to appear confident (even if he doesn’t feel that way). Demonstrate how to walk with the head up, eyes alert and shoulders straight. Practice letting the legs stride naturally as opposed to shuffling or walking with a stiff gait. Good posture may help bully-proof your child. Not everyone with poor posture lacks confidence, but bullies tend to interpret slumped shoulders and shuffling feet as easy targets.

– Give your children three powerful gifts: your acceptance, affection and affirmation. This helps them feel more comfortable in their own skin, so to speak. Knowing your child is loved and that she’s an important part of the family unit is extremely vital to her. Knowing she can contribute in some way gives her confidence. Without this, she will lack roots to stand or wings to fly when faced with tough situations.

How to shape a bully-proof shield

– Love your child. A parent’s unconditional love is the child’s safety net. If everyone else seems to be down on him, he still has you. (Note: no matter how badly your child messes up – on a test, on a project or on the ball field, don’t criticize or point out how he could have/should have done it differently. The failing grade or the missed fly-ball is humiliation enough; there’s no need to pick him apart or give him the silent treatment.) Unconditional love has nothing at all to do with how your child performs. It has everything to do with who your child is – your flesh and blood.

– Listen to your child. The chatter of young children sometimes seems trivial, but it gives the attentive parent an inside glimpse into their hearts. When your son discusses school, friends and events, listen up. This tells him you are interested in what is important to him. Maintain eye contact with your child when he is talking. By doing so, you’re saying, “you are worth my time and attention.”

– Let your child dream. Because you are older and have experienced more in life, you may understand that some of her goals and dreams are feasible and some are not. Resist the temptation to dash her dreams. Show genuine interest in what is important to your daughter. If you make light of her dreams, you discourage her from opening up to you in the future. It’s a healthy thing when children have ideas and dreams, because working toward them and learning as she goes will help build her self-confidence.

More ways to bully-proof your child

– If your child is smaller than average for his size, it’s especially important to bully-proof him. Remind him that being shorter or smaller isn’t always a problem, though. A small person can often dodge quicker, duck lower and run faster if he’s in good shape. Spend time on activities that build muscle strength and agility. Tossing a ball, shooting baskets, running, bicycling, swimming … all of these build muscle. You can also enroll your child in a martial arts class, a “cadet” program or any similar activity that helps build up some bully-proof confidence.

– Help your child find or develop a “specialty.”. Being well-educated and skilled in one particular area builds self-confidence. If your son is fascinated with planes, encourage and support this hobby. Hang out at airports occasionally, arrange an interview with a pilot, visit the traffic control tower if possible and buy lots of books about planes. Becoming an expert on a certain topic gives a sense of purpose and fulfillment to your child. Knowledge is a powerful confidence builder.

– See that your child eats healthy meals for optimum health. Too much junk food and not enough veggies or protein will hinder growth. Try to focus on family time at the supper table. Talk about your day and ask your children for ideas on how to solve a problem or situation you face at work. No matter what suggestions they make, thank them for their input. This affirms the fact that their contributions are valuable, too.

– Ask about your daughter’s school day, her friends, and her favorite activities. Listen with your heart and pay attention to any subtle distress signals. If she is picking at her food, she may have faced a situation at school she can’t handle alone. If she is normally cheerful but seems depressed or out of sorts, tune in very carefully. Being there for your daughter helps her feel more secure. Make a date for an evening treat on the front porch or at a local restaurant. Some quality father-daughter time may help her open up and share what’s on her mind. Be her bully-proof ally.

– Talk with each of your other children privately and stress the importance of their support and encouragement for their siblings. Play-act situations and discuss how to handle them. Have the entire family participate if possible. This strenghthens family ties and further bully-proofs the child who is struggling. Under no circumstances should you ever tolerate cruel teasing and provoking among your children. To do so is allowing a bully to live in your own house.

Do children with a healthy self-image ever get teased? Of course they do. Are they better able to withstand torment and testing if they are self-confident? Yes. A child who has loving support and encouragement from the family unit feels stronger for it. He knows whose side the home team is on – and that they’re willing to step up to the plate for him. In other words, he is developing some bully-proof confidence.