When teaching kids how to deal with bullies at school, it is important to take into account the age of the children being taught, their basic personality traits, and the venue where the teaching is taking place. While the basic content of the lessons is the same, the method of teaching is handled differently if it is a parent teaching their child at home or if it is a classroom teacher educating a room full of students.
The best defense against bullying is strong social skills. Children with solid social skills feel more confident and are less likely to be bullied. Also, children with good social skills tend to have more friends around them most of the time, which is another strong defense against bullying. Parents and teachers can begin by teaching, exhibiting, role playing and reinforcing basic social skills before introducing how to dealing with bullies.
There are four basic steps to dealing with bullies: walk away, talk it out, buddy up, or tell an adult. Fighting and arguing only make the situation worse. Bullies have emotional problems that are not going to be resolved in a handful of confrontations. Teaching kids how to deal with bullies at school is about helping them prevent being bullied, minimizing the incidence of bullying, and to stay safe.
There is debate about whether it is a good idea to role play these behaviors, since someone has to portray the bully. Sensitive children, those most likely to need the skills, can easily become upset to the point of not learning when they see family members or classmates “acting out” in this way. It is simple enough to use words or examples from books or movies, or the teacher/parent can portray both roles.
Be honest about the dangers posed by bullies and be sure to include information about why people become bullies, often due to violence in the home, emotional immaturity, and lack of social skills. The goal in each lesson is to empower children to react appropriately to bullying and to stand up for themselves.
In creating a lesson that demonstrates the effectiveness of walking away, ask students to picture a screaming toddler, a not-quite frightening cartoon monster, or some other non dangerous entity and tell them that this is the bully. Explain that it is simplest to just walk away whenever possible. Walking away from a bully has its risks, but it also tells the bully that their behavior is unacceptable. Be sure to note that running away is not usually a good idea, as it commonly results in a chase and attack situation.
Talk it out
Teaching kids how to talk their way out of potential bully is best done as a group discussion. Ask the children to suggest ideas of what could be said. Direct and lead the discussion to come around to expressing disapproval of the bully’s actions. When kids can tell a bully that what they are doing isn’t funny or isn’t cool, the bully is more likely to back down and bystanders are more willing to speak up. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, studies have shown that speaking up against a bully normally ends the situation in only 10 seconds.
Bullies are far more likely to attack someone who is alone. Kids who tend to be loners can protect themselves by developing and nurturing even a couple of friendships at school. Bullying can also be prevented when more confident children befriend more timid kids. The friendship protects the potential victim both by the physical presence of friends and the confidence that comes from those friendships. Lessons can use a United, We Stand theme to get the message across.
Ask for help
If bullying occurs, children need to know that they have a right and a responsibility to ask an adult for help. Bullying can cycle out of control. Asking for help can save a life.
To ensure that the skills are integrated into daily life, be sure to come back to the lessons whenever situations occur that could have been handled better, or when other topics touch on the issue of bullying. Stories from history, passages from books, and current events nearly always offer teachable moments that will ensure all children know how to deal with bullies at school.