How to Bully Proof your Kids

School’s coming soon so time to start teaching your kids how to handle bullies, just in case.

The best defense against bullies is confidence and high self-esteem.  But when I was mentoring kids I didn’t always have a lot of time to build up their confidence, etc. so I had to come up with another way to arm them against bullies.  So we used role playing.    

Why is role playing so effective?  Because kids learn best by doing.

So how do you do this?  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, but indifference.  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 already.  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

Note:  Sorry about having to turn some of you away with the August “4 Week Parenting Plan”.  I have a limited number of people I can handle as I have daily contact with everyone and it filled up very quickly.  Private coaching is available.

Do you feel Judged as a Parent? – My Mom to Mom Bullying Incident

I don’t remember ever feeling judged, but had a bitchy incident with another mom once.  I didn’t really know her, we just had kids in school together.  She was a substitute teacher and had taught my son.

We were picking our kids up from a birthday party and she came up to me and said, “I feel so sorry for your son Lisa.”  Nice opener to which I replied, “Pardon?”  Turns out she’s this big fan of accelerated learning and found out from the school staff that I wasn’t allowing my son to be put up a grade.  She went on and on about how I was going to mess him up.  I didn’t say much as was so stunned this virtual stranger was talking to me like this.  Plus, I don’t believe in going on the defensive when being attacked, it just feeds the bully.  I did a lot of smiling and nodding then walked away uttering “Miss Bitchy Pants” under my breath.  Yeah, I’m tough, lol.

The fact that my son still remains in an institution muttering “Mom screwed me up” over and over is irrelevant. 

I’ve only ever come up against one other bully in my life.  That exact same condescending tone as they tell you what you should be doing.  They hide under the umbrella of caring which isn’t fooling anyone.  It’s obvious they’re battling their own insecurities by attacking others.  It’s sad but pity is no reason to expose yourself to such people.

I mentioned the above incident to one of the school staff and they said she’d complained to them about me holding my son back.  They assured her I knew what I was doing.  He was already the youngest kid in his class, sensitive and small for his age.  It was Australia, boys are tough.  He’d have been eaten alive if moved up a grade.  Besides, he was happy and you don’t fool with that.  

I was a very confident mom but having someone tell you they feel sorry for your child because of you can throw anyone off.  It did to me for a minute or 2 before I realized she was just a bully.

Bullying isn’t just for kids, adults just hide behind “caring” or “helping”.  If you feel judged by another parent, take a step back and identify whether or not that person is just a bully.  Maybe they have something constructive to say, but chances are they don’t.

On a side note.  I’m so sick of the word “judge” being bashed.  I judge everyone and everything all the time.  I judge how much I like a restaurant, how much I enjoy someone’s company, etc.  Are we not allowed to have opinions about anything anymore?  Judge and bully are not the same.  I judge how each session with a client goes:  “Did she relate to what I was saying about the countdown method?  Did he agree with my recommendations?”  Judge judge judge.  Yup, said it too many times, no longer has a meaning.

More Reading:  Mom to Mom Bullying

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach

If you want to be judged coached by me, check out my Coaching page.  


Stop Praising Your Kids for Everything // Parenting

Praise is great when earned otherwise it’s insincere and meaningless.  Kids not only pick up on this but they lose respect for your opinion because of it.

Insincere praising not only makes you less trustworthy, it waters down your genuine compliments.

I’ve worked with delinquent teens whom (is that the right place to use “whom”?) people were sidestepping around and complimenting constantly trying to get the best out of them.  And of course they only got the worst.

My approach was to say it like it was.  If they sucked at math, I told them they sucked at math.  If they were bullies, I’d tell them we needed to work on their nasty side.  I didn’t tell them they could be a math wizard or that they were really sweet people trapped inside a bully.  How dumb is that?!

BUT, what I did do was enjoy their company.  I always found a way to have fun with them.  Let’s say you’re a rotten teen who everyone hates but is complimenting for no reason.  Then along comes this woman who is 100% honest with you and actually enjoys your company.  Wouldn’t that do more for your self-esteem than being lied to?  I respected them enough to tell them the truth.

Not only did their self-esteem improve, but they became nicer and their grades improved.

So don’t praise the un-praisable.  Instead, praise:

  • their smile
  • their acts of kindness
  • their attempts at anything difficult
  • their thoughtfulness
  • their humour

These are all praisable all the time.  I praised my kids constantly, but always honestly.

Here’s a great example of inappropriate praising.  When my son was little we used to have play dates with a neighbour and her son.  This little guy was so aggressive and mean but if another kid ever hit him back he’d scream like a maniac.  Well, my son didn’t cry OR hit back so was the perfect target.  One night I noticed bruises on his back and asked where he got them from and he told me that boy had punched him.  I was horrified and told the mom the next day.  She didn’t look shocked like I expected but just apologized.  I then kept an eye on the boys and every time that kid would go to punch my son I’d run over and pick my son up.  His mom would say he didn’t mean it but she asked him to say sorry anyway.  He’d smirk and say, “Sorry” in a very unconvincing way then the mom would go on and on about what a good boy he was.  60 seconds later he’d go for my son again having learned nothing.

Why on earth was she praising him for saying “sorry” between beatings???  He knew he wasn’t a good boy, I knew he wasn’t a good boy, the whole neighbourhood knew he was a bully.  He became the school bully and was expelled from high school for beating up other kids.  I used to wonder if she was still telling him what a good boy he was.

Now if he’d been dealt with and been made accountable for being mean instead of praised for it, he could have turned out nice.

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach


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Parents Being Bullied

Boy this comes up a lot!!!  I guess it’s because many parents are vulnerable when going through problems with their kids.

Some examples of the types of bullying I hear about:

“Maybe if you’d disciplined your children like I told you to do in the first place, you wouldn’t be in this mess now.”

“If you hadn’t yelled at her so much she wouldn’t have run away.”

“Your son was always a handful, I’m not surprised he’s dealing drugs now.”

It’s usually done in a passive-aggressive, “I’m just trying to help you” way … yeah right.  The damage such comments make in those painful, vulnerable moments is huge.

(Here’s the  “Adult Bullies” blog I wrote previously.)  

In adulthood most bullies are either co-workers, neighbours or family.  They’re people you can’t get away from or else why would you bother with them?  I’m not just talking about people who say the odd hurtful thing to you, I’m talking about people who consistently undermine, interrupt, correct, over-power and/or belittle you.

All bullying comes from a source of insecurity and jealousy which is what my Mom always told me.  She said to have compassion when people are nasty as it’s coming from their own inferiority complex.  I’d replace the word compassion with the word tolerance.  I save compassion for dying children, injured animals, bullied parents, etc.

One of the nastiest things anyone ever said to me was, in many ways, a gift.  That was my “aha” moment when that person went right into my mental “dunce corner”.  It’s very freeing.  (No, it’s not my ex-husband which is what many of you have asked me, ha ha.)

Stop giving your bully power.  Think about the worst thing they have ever said to you and try to see it objectively.  See it for what it is, i.e., pathetic.  Once you get that, you will find they have zero power over you.  They’ll sense the shift but are far too self-absorbed to figure it out.

Time outAnd from now on be careful what you share with them as they’ll file it away and use it against you.  Just be polite and keep them in that “dunce corner” of your mind.  One client went so far as to do visualization exercises of her bully sitting in a corner with a dunce cap on and said it helped.  Her bully was someone very close to her so was more work to get perspective.

Come on, you’re stronger than the weak, insecure bully.  There are so many wonderful, interesting, funny, nice people in this world.  Don’t let the losers soil even one minute of your life.

Keep sharing …

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach