The third step (click the links to review steps 1 and 2) in addressing bullying involves helping your child develop positive strategies.

Below are three types of strategies to consider. Depending on the age of your son/daughter you can adjust these to suit. In all behaviour modifying situations, there are proactive and reactive strategies to consider.

Proactive strategies are used to reduce the opportunity of bullying occurring. Taking a ‘proactive’ approach can be empowering for children and adolescents as it is something that they can do to control their own behaviour and current situation. Reactive strategies are pre-planned reactions when bullying behaviour occurs.

Reactive strategies aim to defuse the situation simply and quickly to keep your child safe. It is unwise to encourage your child to fight back, as your child could be seriously hurt. When children or adolescents have a plan that they can practice and utilise at these times, they are more confident in reacting in a controlled manner. First, however it is important to reflect on your own child’s behaviour.

Reflect on current behaviour

Reflecting on your son or daughters behaviour is not blaming your child for being bullied, as some children do have habits or behave in a manner which is the central theme of the bulling.

Consider the following questions:

  1. Is your child doing something that might encourage a bully to pick on him/her? Examples could include picking their nose, unable to pronounce words or body odour.
  2. If so, how can you help your child to reduce this behaviour or develop alternative behaviours?

Jot down any thoughts you have on assisting your child in this area.

Proactive strategies

The following strategies should be planned with your child. Your son or daughter will usually have the answers; they might just need to be asked the right questions.

Proactive Strategy 1 — Avoid the Bully

From the information you have gathered about the bullying behaviour, you should have a good idea when and where the bullying behaviour occurs. Use this to create an alternative plan with your child.

For example: Bullying that occurs at morning tea and lunch usually occurs when there is little teacher supervision. Discuss the option of your child eating in an area where the supervising teacher is usually positioned. Another example is bullying which occurs on the way home from school. Try to identify alternative routes which the child can take, ensuring they are ‘high-use’ routes by other children or the public.

The following example is a way to draw up a plan for your child. Give a copy to your child so they can refer to it. It is best if the copy is kept in a safe place such as their bedroom where other people cannot access it. You may need to revisit this plan until your child feels comfortable. This plan can change at anytime when situations in the future change.

Current Situation New Plan

Example 1: I enter school via the lower gate near the bike racks. This is where ‘name of bully’ also enters. I will be dropped off at the front gate each morning.

Example 2: ‘Names of bullies’ usually push me around on the veranda before class. This happens before the teacher arrives. I will wait for the teacher to arrive before entering the veranda in the mornings.

Proactive Strategy 2 — Build self-esteem

Find positive outlets to nurture your child’s self-confidence. Identify strengths/interests and use these to increase his/her self esteem and develop new social circles. This could be as simple as joining a sporting club or taking lessons. Jot down how you and your child will use proactive strategies.

Reactive Strategies

Michele Borba (2001) recommends the following strategies to respond to bullying behaviour:

  1. Assert yourself. Teach your child to face the bully by standing tall and using a strong voice. Your child should name the bullying behavior and tell the aggressor to stop: “That’s teasing. Stop it.” or “Stop making fun of me. It’s mean.”
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.”

Once you choose one or more of these techniques, rehearse it together so your child is comfortable using it. The trick is for your child to deliver it assuredly to the bully and that takes practice. Explain though he has the right to feel angry, it’s not OK to let it get out of control. Besides, anger just fuels the bully.

Try teaching your child the CALM approach to de-fuelling 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 he/she might be injured.

A — Assert yourself. Try the strategy with the bully just like you practised.

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 reactive strategies has your son or daughter chosen to use?