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Handling Bullies

A Guide For Parents On How to Handle Bullies

As parents, our instinct is to protect our children from anything that may hurt them – both physically and emotionally. We carry our infants in our arms, feed them when they are hungry and soothe them when they cry. But as our children grow older and begin to take their first steps away from us and out into the world, it becomes more difficult to shield them from its cruelties. The first time our children encounter meanness, we are often at a loss to help them.

Kate Cohen-Posey helps parents help their children through the rough spots. Her book, How to Handle Bullies, Teasers and Other Meanies, helps children – and their parents – to understand what makes bullies act the way they do. That understanding is the key to successfully changing bullies into allies.

The book comprises short sections, so parents don't have to set aside a large chunk of time all at once. Each section presents an explanation of a specific mean behavior followed by ideas for handling that behavior. Designed to be read by parents (or educators) and children together, Cohen-Posey's book features simple language and inviting illustrations to help children discern the person hidden inside the bully.

Cohen-Posey suggests some basic tactics for dealing with routine name-calling, including turning insults into compliments, asking questions, and agreeing with the bully. For example, if a bully says, "Your mother is such a pig. She ate all our cookies," Cohen-Posey recommends a reply such as, "Really? I guess we don't feed her enough at home." Answers like this, Cohen-Posey says, take a bully by surprise. By agreeing with what the bully says, you deny him the chance to provoke you into an argument.

The book also has a section on advanced techniques including "playing the game," "blocks" and "pushers." To play the game, Cohen-Posey suggests going along with whatever the bully says: a remark such as, "You're so stupid!" can be followed up with, "What does 'stupid' mean?" Blocks and pushers use language to trick the bully into doing something different:

"Just try to keep bothering me," or "I dare you to be nice to me."

The final sections of the book provide children with exercises to practice the techniques they have learned and a plan for putting their new skills into action.

Cohen-Posey also includes a special section for parents with suggestions for helping children discover their own power to overcome meanness – whether the child is the aggressor or the victim. In this section, Cohen-Posey gives specific attention to the problem of name calling (and similar bad behaviors) between siblings, and gives parents strategies to combat it and create a peaceful home environment.

If you have children, sooner or later, you're going to witness nastiness firsthand. How to Handle Bullies, Teasers and Other Meanies is perfectly subtitled – this is "A Book that Takes the Nuisance out of Name Calling and Other Nonsense."

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