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My son is not nearly school-age, but my husband and I have been doing some thinking about problems modern schools face. Bullying is unfortunately one of them.

How do you raise your child making sure he or she can deal with bullies?

My own answer would probably be raising a child in a safe environment where there’s trust between parents and children, so that when a problem arises, that child can turn to their parents for help.

But then I thought what if that’s not enough? There may also be a need to deal with the situation independently… Hence my question. Any tips on bully proofing a kid are greatly appreciated.

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  • This is an extremely broad (though important) question, akin to asking, "How can I raise a child to be a good person?" Bullyproofing can be attempted; StopBullying.gov is many pages long with dozens of important links, and chock-full of pertinent, important information (without bloviating or moralizing). That's an answer. A good answer here would require an extremely long post. Oct 18 at 16:35
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    This is a bit like asking how to make a sink-proof cruise ship. An understandable goal, but perhaps a very misguided one on its principle of absolutism.
    – Zibbobz
    Oct 19 at 20:06
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A factual and supportable answer:

  1. Provide quality early childhood education
  2. Give your child healthy (but not inflated) self-esteem.
  3. Make sure your child "blends in", i.e. doesn't have a gender issue, a disability, a visible medical condition (epilepsy/JRA/T1DM/poor eyesight), is not overweight or underweight, is not depressed, anxious, "the new kid", or in any other way stands out as "other".
  4. Teach your child to be open-minded (i.e. does not have biases against anyone who is in any way "different".)
  5. Teach your child how to play well with others so they have enough friends.
  6. Teach your child appropriate ways to resolve conflict.
  7. Make sure your child appears capable of defending themselves both verbally and physically.
  8. Give your child what they need in your particular neighborhood/culture/school to have some (but not too much) social status.
  9. Make sure the child doesn't care too much about said social status.
  10. Raise your child to seek attention only in appropriate ways, i.e. that they avoid annoying, provoking, or antagonize others for attention.
  11. Live in a diversified but friendly and accepting community, with a school that respects diversity can help protect children against bullying behavior.
  12. Help your child to do well academically.
  13. Help and prepare your child to be interested in participating in school related extracurricular activities, especially those that build teamwork and problem-solving skills, and help children develop emotional regulation that carries over to the classroom.
  14. make sure your child wears no visible signs of a "different" religion (e.g. hijabs, turbans, yarmulkes) 15) Model all of these behaviors for your child to emulate.

This does not even address cyberbullying.

stopbullying.gov
A Comprehensive Technical Package for the Prevention of Youth Violence and Associated Risk Behaviors (available at https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/yv-technicalpackage.pdf)

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    Is this supposed to be sarcasm? It reads like it, but at the same time many of the recommendations are reasonable. It's just that getting all of these at once is pretty much a pipe dream. Particularly numbers 1, 3, 11,14, are great in theory but often very hard to ensure for most people in practice (some possibly even impossible). And I'm ignoring 8 which is a balancing act worthy of an acrobat.
    – DRF
    Oct 19 at 6:53
  • @DRF - Well, it's kinda sarcasm, kinda irony, but all seriously supportable. And if it's written like a pipe dream, see the comment I left under the OP's post: it is a pipe dream. There's no recipe in reality that one can follow to get a bully-proof child. Many kids are both bullies and bullied to some degree (the line between "just some fun" and "now that's just bullying" can be faint.) About #8: trust me, it's doable. That one depends to a very great degree on how the parents perceive the value of status. Oct 20 at 2:04
  • A pretty good list, but you forgot "teach them psychological resiliency so that being bullied anyway won't trouble them". ;)
    – nick012000
    Oct 23 at 7:25
  • @nick012000 - Thanks for the addition. Resilience helps everything - so very important - but it doesn't bully-proof anyone. Then again, if a child appears to be resilient and the bully notices, they may well not be picked on. Where's the fun if the victim isn't perturbed? Oct 23 at 14:35
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    @anongoodnurse If you intend for this to be sarcastic/ironic, you should definitely indicate as much in your answer. Sarcasm and irony do not get conveyed very well on the internet, and people could take your answer literally.
    – Zibbobz
    Nov 8 at 14:03
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Bullying is child abuse. If someone hits you, it doesn't make any difference how old the fist is, it still hurts. The same goes for psychological abuse. Unfortunately some adults still don't seem to realise this.

Bullying is not something that a child should have to deal with on their own, so "bully-proofing" and teaching them "how to deal with bullies" isn't really the point. If you are a victim of bullying then there is no good way of dealing with the perpetrators, and telling the child that there is some recipe for solving the problem is basically just victim-blaming. The only real solution is for adults to step in and deal with the bullies.

The only real thing you can do is encourage your child to tell you if things are going badly, and to teach them that bullying is wrong. Calling people nasty names, hitting, taking their things. Teach your son that if anything like this happens then they should first tell a teacher, and then tell you at the end of the day. However be careful that you don't scare him with all the things that nasty children might do.

Unfortunately if the child won't say anything its really hard to tell the difference between being bullied, being a bully, and normal everyday stuff. Its not nice to think about, but you need to be equally on alert for signs that your son is being a bully as well as signs that he is being bullied. This US government web page has some general advice on what to watch out for.

The first step is to check with the school. You don't say which country you are in, but in most places schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy. Ask for it (the school website is a good place to start) and see what it says. If they don't have one on their website then ask specifically what their policy is. If your school has a PTA or similar organisation then ask them too.

Once your child starts school talk to them about how their day went and what they did. Don't ask "did anyone hit you", ask open questions about what happened. Ask about what happened during break/recess. Especially during the early days your son should be happy to share everything. If he suddenly shuts down about e.g. lunch time and says "nothing" then there may be a problem, but don't assume it is bullying; it could just as easily be that he was told off by a teacher for something.

Find out if your son is making friends, and encourage stuff like play dates. Children with friends are rarely victims of bullying; its the loners who get picked on. Also if you invite his friends over you can look for any negative patterns in their interactions; some children put up with bullying by "friends" as the price of admission into the group (and again, look out for signs that your son is a perpetrator as well as a victim).

Chat to other parents at the school gate. Ask how their children are doing. Swap stories. If bullying is a general problem at the school then this is a good place to find out.

In theory your son's school should be ahead of you on all this; they can observe his behaviour and interactions, and they should be following their own anti-bullying policy. Unfortunately sometimes the policy gets written, stuck on a shelf, and forgotten. If you think this is happening to your son then ask for a meeting with the teacher, take a copy of the anti-bullying policy with you, and ask some pointed questions.

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  • "Children with friends are rarely victims of bullying; its the loners who get picked on." Please provide a reputable source for this statement. While "loners" are vulnerable, it is far from the only group most likely to be bullied. Also, I don't know if this answer actually addresses the OP's real question at all. There are things that help make a child less likely to be bullied (or bullies.) The OP clearly states that they already know about open communication between parent and child. Oct 18 at 16:23
  • @anongoodnurse I admit, I don't have a source for that; its just my impression (speaking as one of the loner victims when I was at school). I appreciate I wasn't directly answering the OP's question; to some extent this answer is a frame challenge. But I would still hope it is useful. Oct 19 at 7:53
  • It's a tough line to walk; I appreciate the honesty. And while I empathize with your situation (we had a loner, too, in the sixth grade, a new kid, who was relentlessly bullied, so much so that he did not come back), it depends on so. many. factors. Not all loners are bullied; not all bullied kids are loners. I don't think it's possible to raise a bully-proof child. "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men..." and all that. Oct 20 at 2:14

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