Elementary School Bullying
While bullying may be a common part of growing up, don't take a wait-and-see approach, assuming children will work it out over time. Bullying can leave lifelong emotional scars.
"Parents should act quickly and be proactive in stopping the bullying actions regardless of what form they take -- verbal or physical," says Keith Vitali, martial arts expert and actor turned child activist. He is the author of the forthcoming book "Bully Proofing Your Child."
If your child reports being bullied, first console her with the assurance that it's not her fault, but that of the bully who has control issues. Next, find out if the bullying is verbal or physical. If it's taking place at school or on the bus, contact your child's teacher, principal, or bus driver and get them involved. Notify the parents of the bully.
If your child is called out as a bully, teach her empathy by asking her to picture herself in the other child's shoes. Making your child apologize to the victim in your presence can be the most memorable and effective punishment, while helping heal the relationship between the two children.
You can also teach your child skills at home that will come in handy on the playground. "How children project themselves when approached by a bully makes a critical difference," says Vitali.
Positive body language is the first defense against an aggressive individual -- teach your child to stand tall and confidently. Role-play standing toe-to-toe with your child, pretending you are a bully. Teach your child to look a bully right in the eye and say, "Stop it!" and "Leave me alone!" Assure your child that it's okay to feel scared when confronting a bully but that she needs to appear confident on the outside.
Telling your child to fight the bully sends the wrong message and isn't fair to her, but you might consider enrolling her in a martial arts or self-defense program to help build confidence. The assuredness that follows may be what's needed to keep bullies at bay.