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Standing Up to Teenage Bullies

Most kids will engage in some form of bullying behavior when they are very young, but, effective positive parenting and discipline teaches most kids that bullying is never an acceptable way to behave.

Sometimes tweens and teens engage in behavior that is both cruel and inappropriate. Kids in middle school and high school who bully others often do so because they feel isolated or different from their peers. By educating your kids about bullies, you can help them avoid becoming a target or a bully. Understanding how bullies operate is the key to handling the situation properly.

Taking a Stand Against Bullies

Bullies tend to target kids who appear to be vulnerable-- those who are considered "unpopular," who don't have a large group of friends to protect them, or who are isolated in one way or another from the larger social groups. In general, bullies go after what they consider to be easy targets-- kids who they think won't stand up for themselves. Here are a few suggestions you can talk about that may help your child understand what to do if he encounters a bully.

  • Teach your child how to stand up to a bully. You don’t have to enroll him in karate or teach him how to box, but you do need to encourage him to stand up and say no when a bully makes demands. Few bullies will result to physical violence, especially in the school environment, and, many times, simply making it clear that bullying will not be tolerated may be enough to make a bully back off.
  • Encourage your child to stand up for others. Whenever your child comes forward and protects a friend or classmate that is being bullied, he enforces the message that bullying behavior will not be tolerated -- he may ultimately save a classmate from a great deal of pain and embarrassment.
  • Promote good behavior by teaching kids that bullying is unacceptable under any circumstance. If your child has bullied others, it’s important to let him know that there will be negative consequences for his actions. Getting to the underlying issues that have resulted in bullying, and correcting them, may also bring about a positive change.

Maintaining Self-Esteem

The actions of a bully can be painful. Never ignore bullying behavior, and stress to your child that his worth is not determined by the inappropriate actions of a classmate or peer.