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Bullying Prevention Skills

By: Dr. Adria O'Donnell, Clinical and Consulting Psychology, Expert Advisor at
Combating bullying is something that you can work on with your child now, whether they have been bullied or not. It's important to prepare your child for this type of situation so they know exactly how to act in case a bully approaches them. Teaching your child to be calm and confident in the face of a bully is hard, but, like anything, it gets easier and more effective with practice.

Lifelong Skills for Kids to Cope with Bullies

The same skills that are used to prevent bullying are actually lifelong skills that work in a multitude of situations. As you work on these skills with your child, you'll begin to notice a boost of confidence and self-awareness. You and your child can act out bullying scenarios and then practice how to use the skills below or just have a sit-down conversation on how to put the skills into action.

  • Eye Contact. Your child should look the person in the eye when responding to bullying behavior.
  • Tone of Voice. Practice different tones of voice with your child and show them the difference between a strong, assertive voice and one that is too soft or too harsh. Your child will be less likely to be targeted by a bully if they don't come off as passive.
  • Facial Expression. Your child’s face should reflect their message. They want to look serious and confident but not mean.
  • “I” Statement. Teach your child how to use “I” statements to effectively communicate what they are feeling and to clearly ask the bully to stop the offensive behavior. When you say “I feel bad when you...,” another person can’t say “no you don’t feel that way.” Good “I” statements to use are: “I felt ______ when you ______.” or “Next time, I need you to ________.”
  • Practice. Role play with your child. You take on the role of bully and be mean or rude or try to get them to do something they know is wrong. Let you child practice using their “I” statements in an assertive, confident manner.
  • Walk away, powerfully. Walking away, changing seats, and taking different routes are all valid techniques to deal with a bully, especially after your child has expressed themselves confidently and asked the bully to stop. Show them how to stand tall and walk away with an air of confidence.
  • Find Allies. Teach your kids to find “allies” in situations where they are experiencing bullying or intense teasing. Often, kids will not bully or tease another group, so finding “allies” to be with may provide a safety buffer. Allies do not have to be close friends, just other kids that they can sit with, or eat with, or play with from time to time.
  • Speak up. If your child has continuously said “stop” and the bully continues to harass them, then your child will also want to speak up to a teacher or another school administrator after a bullying incident. Using the same skills as used with the bully, your child should stand up straight and appear calm and confident while clearly explaining the situation to school officials.

Be Persistent with Kids and Bullying Incidents

Your child should use these skills every time a bullying incident occurs with the same self-assurance each time. However, as a parent, you may be needed to help if the bullying persists. Be prepared to talk to school administrators and the bully's parents in order to fully solve the problem and prevent future abuse.

Dr. Adria O'Donnell has been a licensed clinical psychologist for over 10 years and specializes in working with children and adolescent girls. She is a coveted public speaker and a valued contributor to