The best defence against bullies is confidence and high self-esteem. That’s what I did with my own kids but when I was mentoring other people’s kids I didn’t have the time to build them up. I had to figure out another way to arm them against bullies. So we used role playing.
Why is role playing so effective? Because kids learn best by doing.
Here’s what you do: You set up a bullying scenario, write it out like a script with your child. Then you take turns being the bully and victim. Keep the bullying non-personal as even when acting things out meanness hurts.
Make it fun. When I’d play the bully I’d say things like, “Do you use that thumb growing out of your forehead to push elevator buttons?” Kinda embarrassing writing such ridiculous stuff here, but kids gobble that stuff up.
The victim role is one of calm indifference. Not ignoring as that’s antagonistic. Use indifference, then diversion.
Role play could go something like this:
Bully: Does your whole family have green hair or is it just you?
Victim: Yup, all green tops. What are you doing this weekend?
Humour can work also but it has to come naturally to the child. My son used humour but my daughter used indifference and diversion.
I had my first bullying incident when I was in Grade 2. A much older student came up to my face and made fun of my last name. I laughed right along and came up with an even funnier play-on-words with my name. The bully was completely defeated and walked away. Bullies are quick to move on when they don’t get the desired reactions: fear, crying, etc.
Were you ever approached by a bully? How did you handle it?
Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach