Parenting Helps

Empowering Children To Protect Themselves

When our children are bullied, we want them to stand up for themselves. However, experimenting and socializing with other children will only take them so far. If they are taught the difference between assertiveness and aggression, they would be caught in a bind.

Eleanor Reynolds, a children and families specialist and author, shares her thoughts about how parents can help children learn the difference.

4 Tips To Empower Children To Protect Themselves

#1 Teach your child what standing up for themselves looks like

Explain how to defend your child’s rights to them. Sticking up for oneself entails not passively allowing others to abuse you; it entails having the confidence to speak up and say no. There’s a huge difference between defending yourself and retaliating. Children need courage to assert themselves, while revenge necessitates violence, which entails imposing one’s will on others. Standing up for yourself does not imply that you must defeat others or become a bully.

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#2 Teach negotiation skills

Not every case necessitates a direct confrontation. It’s not always necessary for someone to provide advice in a given situation.

“Rather than fighting over it, we can take turns playing with it” (rotating), “Let’s do this together” (sharing), “I’ll play with the train first, and you can take the car.” The kids will continue negotiating until they reach an agreement.

#3 Suggest simple ways to build assertiveness

Parents can help their children develop assertiveness by teaching them basic statements and stances.

Role play acceptable scenarios in which to use “big speech” statements such as

  • Don’t call me names!
  • I don’t like it when you take my turn on the slide! 
  • If you hit me I am going to leave and tell 

Going through the scenarios with them would help them understand when to use the statements and how to boost their morale.

#4 Help your children to be aware of danger

It is not necessary for your child to be alone. A buddy system, according to an anti-bullying online resource, can be beneficial in certain cases. If the other child is physically aggressive or makes threats of harm, back away from the bully. When you’re backed into a corner, be cautious. Teach what to do and who to contact if assistance is needed.

In general, a combination of negotiation and assertion skills will be successful in regulating power play situations among children. Nonetheless, parental control is essential at all times, and you should be aware of what is going on. Do pay attention to what your child says to you and don’t ignore it. It is important for children to understand that they can turn to their parents for help and should not be afraid to do so. If your child is being bullied, intervene and work something out with the school.

Related: Role models and positive influences for kids

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