What is the best way to prevent bullying? To teach kids to be assertive. Assertiveness is empowering, which not only teaches kids to stand up for themselves and respect themselves, but also teaches them that they don’t need to be bullies themselves.
Time after time we see kids in our practice that do not know what assertiveness is. They are often passive until they can’t stand it anymore and then they explode, becoming aggressive or even violent. This is precisely the recipe for bullying and for being bullied.
Assertiveness means learning that you do have power over your own behaviors and decisions, but that you don’t have control over others’ actions. It means having the body language, communication skills and energy to stand up for one’s self, while having the insight to allow others room to be assertive in their own right. This is a tall order for adults, let alone for kids. But here are a few pointers:
- Teach kids about body language. When a kid can learn to make eye contact, square up their shoulders and stand up tall, they feel more empowered. Try it. It works.
- Teach kids to be aware of their tone of voice. When kids learn to yell or to be too passive, they lose their voice. Help them by practicing to talk with a firm voice. This is the voice that actors and singers use. Speaking from deep within the lungs instead of from the throat not only helps us breathe deeper, but also give more power to our voices.
- Teach kids to lead by standing their ground. If kids learn that they don’t have to always influence others directly, but that they will have influence merely by standing their ground in difficult situations, they will feel the ability to be assertive. This is as simple as teaching them to walk away from the trouble-makers, to reuse to go along with harmful plans, and to recognize that it is OK to be the one saying no.
- Teach kids the power of listening. We learn a lot when we stop talking and listen to others. We use an acronym around here called W.A.I.T. It stands for “Why Am I Talking?” Asking if there is an opportunity to just listen, and then to be comfortable with just listening, is a powerful skill set. It shows us that we don’t have to get our way and that sometimes there is no harm in not getting your point across. If you listen, you might just start to understand someone else’s point of view, even if you don’t agree with it.
- Listen to your kids. It is just as important for us to listen to them. Validating their feelings, good and bad, is extremely important in developing a strong sense of self, which is the base for feeling empowered and minimizing both bullying and victimization.