Bullying seems to be an epidemic among our children and young people today. It’s imperative that we teach our children the assertiveness skills they need to stand up for themselves and express their feelings in a non-threatening and respectful manner when their rights are violated.
When children begin school, they may be extremely naïve about the variety of personalities they’re going to come up against – especially if they’ve been sheltered and protected at home. They may not understand why they’re being bullied and are clueless about what to do about it.
Children may also be afraid to tell someone about the bullying because they’ve been threatened by the bully if they do. The situation could become extremely toxic and even dangerous if the children don’t know how to be assertive.
Here are some assertiveness techniques that should be taught by every parent and in every school today:
- Don’t respond to the bully. When a child bullies another, they’re looking for a reaction. Teach your children to ignore the behavior and walk away. It’s likely that the bully will lose interest and try their bullying behavior with someone else. Don’t answer the bully’s questions and turn away immediately.
- Stand up to the bully. Sometimes the situation requires the child to stand up to the bully rather than ignoring or walking away. When a child knows how to stand up for him or herself or someone else who’s being bullied, the child develops a sense of control and self-confidence that may discourage bullies. You can role play with the child about which action to take and how to handle various scenarios.
- Assertiveness – not aggressiveness. Engaging with a bully in aggressive behavior is playing into the bully’s hands. Teach children how to stand up for their rights by keeping calm and stating what they want in a forceful (but not angry) manner.
- Teach calming techniques. It can be infuriating to have to deal with bullies at school on a daily basis – but that’s just what some of our children face each day. Calming techniques such as taking deep breaths, learning to control aggressive tendencies and how to relax his or her muscles can help stabilize the situation.
Many kids have a problem with “tattling,” but there are times when seeking the assistance of an adult is the appropriate action. Attempt to get across to the children that safety comes first and if they’re threatened with physical (or emotional) harm, seek help fast.
Role playing with the children is an excellent way to impart assertiveness skills they can use in a bullying situation.