How to Bulletproof Your Kids Against Bullying.

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

I was bullied when I first started in Secondary School aged 11 & I developed Alopecia, where chunks of my hair fell out, due to the stress of not telling anyone about it.

One night my Dad came in to kiss me goodnight & found me crying.

I told him what was happening & he went into the school. It was back in the 70’s & Dad wasn’t impressed with the Head Teacher’s response as schools didn’t have Anti- Bullying policies back in those days.

I was an only child & not used to handling other girls, who can be cruel, unkind & bitchy.

I’ve interviewed over 50 parenting experts & entrepreneurs who have created products & services around families on my podcast & what strikes me is just how often their creations come out of personal experiences. I think the reason I wrote ‘The Can-Do Kids’ Journal for Superheroes: Discover Your Confidence Superpower!’ came from my passion to empower kids with confidence, resilience & an iCan attitude to life because of what happened to me.

I read a fascinating article in the New York Times about the work of Izzy Kalman, a school psychologist, educator and author of “Bullies to Buddies: How to Turn Your Enemies Into Friends.”

His concept is quite simple but actually goes against a great deal of what you as a parent would probably teach your child in how to handle a bully.

The golden rule is to treat the person insulting you as a friend rather than an enemy, and not to get defensive or upset.

Izzy Kalman differs from the approach favoured by many schools in several ways: he avoids labelling a child as a bully (it’s an insult, like “wimp” or “loser”), but also advocates going to adults for advice or help with role playing.

His method encourages kids to solve problems on their own rather than asking an adult to put pressure on the school to take the side of the upset child over the one identified as the “bully.” He also teaches children how to handle threats and situations where they are made to feel unsafe.

Obviously, if a child is physically attacked, he deems that a crime and endorses calling for adult intervention.

“The message given today is that although sticks and stones can break my bones, words can kill me, but that is counterproductive,”  Kalman suggests. If someone is committing a crime against you, go to the authorities. “But not because they’re insulting you or don’t want to sit with you at lunch.”

‘Don’t Punish Children for Saying Negative Words’

Kalman explains that when we punish children for using certain words, it teaches them that words are  harmful. And when an adult punishes a child for saying something hurtful, it magnifies hostilities and takes the solution for fixing the issue out of the child’s hands.

I feel that parents & teachers need to ‘Talk & Teach’ children about the impact of their words on others – teaching them empathy as well as responsibility, using every opportunity to help children learn from their behaviour.

“Nobody can guarantee their children a life without difficulties. If you protect your children from the social challenges of life, it weakens them,” he says.

Instead of having adults act like law enforcement officers against bullying, Kalman advises teaching children the following four facts:

1) The real reason they are being picked on is that they get upset when they are picked on.

2) They have been making themselves upset.

3) Fighting back and acting defensively fuels the bullying.

4) By not getting upset, the child wins, and gets the bullies to stop.

The popular model of encouraging parents and educators to report and punish bullying often escalates to more aggression & children do worry about that side of things  saying ‘ I don’t want the bully to know I told on them’

But many anti-bullying experts think Kalman’s scripts oversimplify things and rely on a child who is likely to be upset & frightened to show great maturity and restraint.

Bullying is a complex issue & I don’t believe there is just one simple quick fix to this age-old problem.

Some bullying situations are so overwhelming that a child feels unable to resolve the conflict alone, and needs to ask for the help of adults.

Raising a child with strong self esteem & self confidence is what I have dedicated my life to over the last 30 years, firstly working as a Deputy Head Teacher with the children & now for the last 15 years, working with parents as I believe that is one of the best gifts you can give your child.

Research shows that it takes a comprehensive sustained effort, and intervention at many levels, to change the climate and culture in a school but I also think Izzy Kalman’s approach is worth bearing in mind if you find your child suffering from teasing & jibes at school.

As long as we are alive, we are going to encounter people who are mean, unkind & rude to us and we all need to learn to deal with them. Izzy Hackman believes if children always rely on outside authorities to stop others from bullying them, they are going to stay victims for a long time. He advocates role playing & other strategies to empower children with ways of dealing with it.

Take a look at his website www.Bullies2Buddies.com which is dedicated to teaching people how to handle bullying based on time-honoured psychological principles. Kalman has also written many books and in greater detail on the problems with the bullying psychology than anyone in the world.

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