Bullying, when left unchecked, can lead to tragedy.  If we have learned anything from Columbine and countless other tragedies that involved kids killing kids, it is that persistent, unrelenting bullying can drive kids over the edge.  Kids we meet experience bullying in a number of different arenas: at school (classroom, lunch room, rest room, playground), at home (with older brothers and sisters), and in the neighborhood (neighborhood kids, gang members).   Their bullies are most often (but not always) older, bigger kids, and they tend to pick on kids who are alone.

Below are some tips to share with your children on how to handle bullying.

  • Use your head, not your fists. Bullies don't usually pick fights with kids who can beat them up. Think about the consequences if you take out your anger on a bully in a physical way.  Is what could happen (disciplinary consequences, trouble with parents, the risk of getting hurt) worth the risk?  Will fighting make the problem better?
  • Say "No."  Sometimes that's all it takes to get a bully to leave you alone. Bullies pick on kids who can't defend themselves.  Your strong words can show that you aren't the kind of person a bully can push around.  Giving in to a bully's demands only teaches them that you are an easy target and encourages them to keep coming back.
  • Try to de-escalate the situation.  Calm yourself down, and be aware of your words, your tone of voice, and your body language in your interactions with the bully.  Bullies will use words to intimidate you, to embarrass you, or to draw you into a fight.  They want you to take the bait. Don't fall into their trap. 
  • Get people to help you.  Maybe you have some friends or siblings who can help you stand up to the bully. If the bullying still persists, or you feel that you are in danger, tell a grown-up.  Parents, teachers, principals, and counselors all care about keeping you safe, and about making your school or neighborhood a safe place for kids.
  • Remember that bullying isn't just hitting. Bullying can take a number of different forms, including the following: stealing, name-calling, taunting, sexual harassment, or even something a little more sophisticated, like peer-pressure. If someone wants something from you and threatens to embarrass you or tell others that you're not cool if you refuse, that's bullying!
  • If you are tempted to bully someone, think back to the last time you were bullied. How did it make you feel?  Is bullying someone else a good way to feel strong about yourself? 
  • If you see a kid with a weapon at school or in your neighborhood or home or even hear a kid talking about having or using weapons, tell an adult IMMEDIATELY.  Help make your world a safer place.
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