No Bullies Allowed: Raising a Compassionate and Confident Child

Bullying hurts. It also is a symptom and product of stress: Stressed children tend to become bullies, and children who are bullied can become fearful, anxious and stressed. And throughout life, studies show that bullies are more prone to alcohol and substance abuse, being violent or abusive, and breaking the law. Victims of bullies are at a far higher risk than other people for anxiety, depression and even suicide later in life. How can you prevent kids from becoming bullies or being bullied themselves?

Raising a child to be both compassionate and confident is a good start. Beginning around the age of two, children begin to offer comfort to others who may be sad. Throughout preschool, their understanding of others’ feelings, sense of fairness and right and wrong, and abilities to show kindness and consideration grows. Encourage your child’s compassion through discussing the importance of kindness and tolerance, modeling, showing and praising kindness and respectful behavior with others, and teaching that words and actions matter, from saying nice things to helping others in need.

Helping a child become confident and better able to handle a possible bully starts with building self-esteem and empowerment. Encourage your child’s learning and accomplishments and praise him or her. Teach your child to stand tall and look people in the eye. Create opportunities for your child to succeed socially, from having playdates with preschool friends to spending time with family, friends and children outside of school that your child likes. If your child is having problems with another child, role-play ways to manage the situation and communicate with teachers.

Discrimination and Stress: A recent study by the American Psychology Association found that discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, disability or age is a major contributor to stress levels and health problems. Fighting for equality and standing up to discrimination — a form of bullying — is an important way to model self-respect and empowerment for children.

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