3 anti-bullying tactics every child should learn

  • Bystanders to a bullying incident may have a chance to de-escalate the situation.

    Bystanders to a bullying incident may have a chance to de-escalate the situation. stock photo

 
By Madelyn Burbank
Amita Health
Updated 9/27/2020 8:04 AM

Among other causes, October is recognized as National Bullying Prevention Month. It's a time to recognize how important it is to teach children about bullying and cyberbullying -- to speak up if they're being bullied or to act when they see someone else being targeted.

Bullying can cause lasting harm, intensifying anxiety, depression, self-harm and school absences. How can parents teach their children to combat bullying?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

As counterintuitive as it might sound, we shouldn't use the word "bullying." Getting kids, especially teenagers, to engage in any conversation that casts them in the role of either the person causing harm or being harmed is an uphill battle. Part of adolescent development is a belief that bad stuff doesn't happen to them and they don't make bad stuff happen. Instead, professionals recommend engaging your kids in the conversation by framing bullying prevention as helping their friends. Children may not believe something bad could happen to them, but they will believe it could happen to someone else.

Standing up for friends can be scary, so it's also important to teach children to respond in a way fitting to who they are. Alteristic, a social accelerator tackling societal issues at local, national and global levels, suggests employing the three tactics they've identified as the 3 Ds will help children identify an effective countermeasure to the bullying they may witness.

The 3 Ds

• Direct: Go to the person causing the harm and tell them to stop or go to the person being harmed and ask if they are OK.

• Delegate: Tell someone who can help. Often, we think "tell a trusted adult," but delegation may involve a close friend of the person being harmed or, on social media, flagging inappropriate content or behavior using the platform's reporting features.

• Distract: Do something to draw attention away from the person being harmed.

You can take your children through each of the 3 Ds, using real-life scenarios to walk them through how they might use each to help someone being bullied.

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For example, imagine at the end of a class they notice someone waiting in the hall for a classmate. The classmate looks scared. The child might choose to:

• Direct: Walk up the person waiting outside and ask why they're there or ask the classmate if they'd like company walking to their next class.

• Delegate: Ask the classmate's friends to go walk with their friend or tell the teacher that something doesn't seem right.

• Distract: Get some people to form a crowd around the classmate or go outside and ask the person waiting if they know how to solve a math problem or speak Spanish -- anything that might divert their attention.

Cyberbullying

To address cyberbullying, the 3 Ds also are helpful. For example, say your child is in a group chat and some of the group say cruel things about a classmate, suggesting they post what's being said anonymously. Some options for that might be:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Direct: Tell the friends to stop, making their opposition to the idea emphatic and unambiguous.

• Delegate: Show the messages to a trusted adult and ask for help or start a side conversation with someone in the group and ask them for back up.

• Distract: Flood the feed with silly memes and GIFs until it takes too much effort to get the conversation back on track.

Talking to your children and making sure they're prepared to act against bullying in all its forms is an important part of growing up. When we respond quickly and consistently to the behavior, we send a message that it's not acceptable and, over time, can be corrected.

• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Amita Health. Madelyn Burbank is a licensed clinical social worker with Amita Health Behavioral Medicine Institute. To check out more information, please visit www.amitahealth.com.

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