How to bully-proof your child


How to bully-proof your child

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare to learn their child is being bullied. It can wreak havoc on body and soul not only of the child but of parents too.

Schoolyard bullies may be a leader of a pack, and they can almost always smell vulnerability. Kids bully for a variety of reasons: sometimes they pick on others because they need a victim, and they may want to feel more important, popular or in control, or in some instances they themselves are being bullied at home. 

It’s often those who can least stand up to it who are the victim, perhaps someone who seems emotionally or physically weaker, or just acts or appears different in some way. Children on the autism spectrum are at particular risk as they miss the social cues that could warn them in advance of risky situations.

As a parent, at what stage do you step in?

First of all, you need to know the signs because often your child won’t tell anyone because the bully has threatened them. Watch out for:

  • Not wanting to go to school any more, having headaches or stomach aches;
  • Mood changes, such as being more tearful, angry or anxious;
  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, scratches, particularly after a day at school;
  • Missing or damaged belongings or clothes;
  • Asking for extra lunch money, or coming home hungry.
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In the era of cyberbullying, it may be hard to stop but the victim has more rights than ever. Although South Africa does not have specific laws which apply to cyberbullying the normal laws of harassment, defamation, slander, crimen injuria etc also apply to online crimes, which very few children and parents will be aware of. If you share a defamatory video for example, in a WhatsApp group, you also can be prosecuted for defamation even though you did not make the video. Take a look at cybercrime.org.za for more info.

Strategies to combat cyberbullying:

  • In line with the advice “don’t feed the trolls”, do not respond;
  • Save the evidence and take screenshots;
  • Block, block, block!
  • Report the person to the social media channel eg Facebook, Instagram, and at the same time, change your privacy setting to full tilt.

If all else fails, there are civil and criminal avenues such as reporting the perpetrator to law enforcement under the Protection From Harassment Act. A child under the age of 18, or adult on their behalf, also may apply for a Protection Order.

For bullying in the school yard, it may help if your child can:

  • Avoid the bully as much as possible.
  • Buddy up and make sure they are not left alone with the bully.
  • Stay calm: it’s natural to get upset but bullies thrive on a reaction so encourage your child to count to 10, take a deep breath and put on their best “poker face”.
  • Act brave, firmly and clearly tell the bully to stop, then walk away. Practice ways to ignore the hurtful remarks, like acting uninterested or texting on your cell phone.
  • Tell an adult: teachers, parents and other school staff can help to stop bullying.
  • Talk about it with someone you trust. 
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Make sure that you also talk to your child’s teacher - schools have a duty of care to your child and you can call on their support by asking them to keep a strict eye on kids in the playground.

Parents can also really help by building up kids’ resilience so that it is easier for them to cope.

If they are a loner, help them to make friends as research suggests that having even one loyal friend is more protective than any other factor.

If you have their back, though, the chance is so much better that they will pull through and grow up to become a happy and well-adjusted adult. And isn’t that the hope of every parent?


Date Published: 
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