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Recent studies in both Europe and the United States show that bullying behaviors are still prevalent among our children and young adults. It is estimated that at least one in seven children either are bullied or take part in bullying behaviors. The numbers may be as high as one in five. Bullying is any behavior either physical or verbal in which one child is intimidated by another or by a group of others.

Who Gets Bullied?

In general, children who are on the receiving end of bullying behavior tend to be more passive than others. They may be small or weak physically, but the more important factor is their self confidence and the fact that they give out signals of a poor self image. They tend to have few friends and may be more anxious and submissive than other children.

Who Bullies?

Bullying behavior is usually exhibited by children who are covering up a poor self esteem. They have learned to use violence or aggression to solve problems. They often are immature children with quick tempers, but can also be quite adept at talking their way out of trouble. Strangely enough, some children link up with a bully and take part in group bullying actions who would never engage in such behavior by themselves. Bullies have a need to dominate and don’t like to follow rules.

What Can Adults Do?

Here are some things to aid in bully-proofing your children. Nearly everyone will experience some form of bullying behavior in their life, but no one has to become the butt of on-going bullying. The following will go a long way to build up the proper levels of self confidence and esteem in your children.

1) Let your child or grandchild know how much you love them and that they are

extremely important to you.

2) Be fair and accountable to them. They need to know they can count on you if

they begin to experience trouble with other children.

3) Don’t use fear as a means to gain obedience in your home. Living with fear

will cause a child to withdraw and refrain from seeking out help when they

need it.

4) Instill a sense of humor about life. A positive approach to life will include a

lot of laughter and a positive outlook on each day.

5) Praise and encourage children whenever you can. Praise is a builder while

nagging and disrespectful talk tears down.

6) Enforce reasonable rules. Children want to have safe boundaries and they will

learn to respect them in an orderly home.

7) Be a role model for interactions with others. Encourage kindness and respect,

while also expecting the same level of respect from others.

Talk, talk, talk

It’s never too early to begin discussions with children about their interactions with others.

Very young children can talk about friendships and how to both be a friend and how to have friends. Older children should be drawn out regularly in conversations to build the vocabulary necessary to understand their relationships with others. They need to know how to say “no” to certain behaviors and when to ask adults for helps. They need to understand the lines between honoring their friendships and when their friends have stepped over the line of bullying behavior. There are three kinds of questions you can ask older children to bring out healthy discussions and prevent bullying behavior.

1)  Open-ended questions

A question such as “How are things going with your friends at school?” might

open the door to revealing any problems.

2) Sharing of personal stories

When you tell true stories or relate anecdotes about your own childhood, it

helps children to feel safe in sharing their similar problems.

3) Direct inquiry

Ask directly, “Is anyone bullying you at school or on the bus?” or “Have you

ever been bullied?”

The fact that so many children become involved in bullying means that all of the adults in a child’s life need to be on the alert and ready to step in to stop such behavior. Schools need to do their part, but can’t actually stop every incident. The real answer to a bullying problem comes from inside a child. When a child is secure and appropriately confident, he or she will either handle a bully by themselves or be able to ask for the help they need to stop the behavior. The following websites are very helpful in defining bullying behavior, outlining many ways to combat the problem and offer information on formal studies on bullying worldwide.