Talk to your child about what it feels like to be bullied. If a student feels they are unfairly being singled out for abuse, listen carefully. After listening carefully, validate those feelings which highlight real injustice. Also talk about how your child actions may contribute to provoke, or disarm the bully. Never make it about blame. Blame cause harm.
Do not leave it at that, however. Also talk about what insecurity issue your child can help identify in the “bully.” No one bullies out of a sense of being better. On the contrary, they are trying to prove to themselves, and to others, that they are powerful. If they already truly felt powerful, in any sense, intellectually, athletically, socially, or otherwise, they would not bully. They would have nothing to prove. Helping your child understand this simple formula is critical. In psychology terms, what the bully is doing is called projection. He, or she, feels an inadequacy and seeks to find an even bigger inadequacy in someone else.
Let us take the situation in which one child picks on another, or gets a group to do so because the “victim” child is wearing older clothes. The fashion police bullies are insecure. They need reinforcement to feel they are cool. The fastest way for any person, child, teacher, or parent to deflate the bullies’ false sense of power, is to show the bully with words or actions that they are behaving as if inferior. Tell you child that character always matters. It matters more than style, trends, coolness, fitness or fatness, being big, or being small. Being able to walk from a fight shows powerful character and courage, even if it takes until adulthood, mature children always learn this truth.
Caving into a bully, say handing over lunch money, or taking blows, displays a cowardice to do the right thing and report the incident. For children almost nothing feels worse than being a “snitch.” Tattle tale is one of the ugly names children throw at one another, and children hate feeling like they are known for being one. Yet, if you explain simply and clearly that the reason there are rules is to preserve order, justice, and help bullies find their insecurity issues and reduce needless suffering, even a kindergartner can understand this. Explain how showing concern for harmony displays higher character than enabling bullies.
In the case of physical bullying, where one child, or a few, are trying to prove they rule the school, the quickest way to remove that insecurity of constant “toughness” is to find the weakness of the bullies. A meeting should be called wherein the bullies are expected to expalin why they feel so insecure and inadequate. Ask why they did not address another with civility, manners, and diplomacy. Then let the BULLY offer a better solution.
Physical retaliation is only permissible in extreme self defense. It is seldom useful to assume violence solves problems. If it did, of course, wars would stop wars rather than perpetuating them. When it is vicious gossip, explore why a need to belittle another is seen as a solution. If it is found that one person made a false assumption about another, which is very common, get to the root of the resentment, injustice, or insecurity.
To learn to be adults, children need to learn that if bigger, smarter, or more authorized people can hurt smaller, or in any way less “authorized” people, they learn that dominance, rather than cooperation is the rule of the world. This is not true. Cooperation and sharing is the only law of nature, that really speaks to how life on earth is possible. That only humans have war and garbage means that only humans can stop it. Teaching children that violence in any form is acceptable is to tell them that fear and hate are more powerful than love and compassion. Teach them peace.