Supporting Parents. Fostering Change.

No More Bullying

Cathi at the 10th Annual Special Education Conference

Presenting at the Annual Special Education Conference is always a highlight of the year for me.  Elaine, Gail, Janet and the team at the Parent Resource Center consistently strike that balance between warmth, efficiency, and professionalism.  Nearly 2,000 devoted, eager parents and professionals attended the conference this year! While I only met the few hundred who attended my workshop on bullying, or came to the book signing afterward, the energy and love emanating from them floats me for days afterward.

For those who couldn’t attend, here is some of the info I shared in my workshop, No More Bullying:

While children with special education needs are subject to more bullying, research also shows that interventions using social skills training to help improve social competence offer a critical mitigating effect.  Children who become more adept socially, more able to read their peers’ social language and control their own behaviors in response to others, lessen the likelihood that they’ll be teased to begin with.

Kids who are targets of bullying just want to know what to do!  They’ll look to you, as the parent, for help.  Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten how we dealt with bullying when we were kids, if we remember being bullied at all.  When an upset child comes to us with tales of teasing woes, we so desperately want to fix it that we are compelled to offer them the vast arsenal of our coping techniques.  “Just ignore it!”  Oh, if it were only that simple.  We naively hope that ignoring teasing will solve the problem – the teasing will stop, and we won’t have to deal with any more tales of woe.  Wrong!  Ignoring is rarely a successful method for coping.  Children can only ignore teasing for a limited period of time, and when they can’t manage it any longer, they blow sky high!  Tears. Upset. Rage. This reaction is precisely what the bully is waiting for.  Enjoying the control the teaser has over his prey, the bully is fueled for more teasing, leaving the target feeling helpless to change the situation.

The following are a list of a few techniques for dealing with bullying that you can work on with your child.  Some of these ideas seem so simple you’ll wonder how they could possibly be effective.  But by and large, all you need are the following variables for the ideas to work:

  • Have a plan
  • Put the plan into action
  • Communicate a sense of strength

REMINDER:  Mix and match these techniques.  If one doesn’t work, encourage your child to try another.

  1. Perfect the “dirty look”.
    For those kids who are not very verbal or who feel uncomfortable with a verbal comeback, a smirk or a dirty look can be a powerful response.
  2. Learn the short-and-sweet comeback.
    Especially for the younger child, simple, specific verbal responses can be handy.   Try These:

    • “So!”
    • “Whatever.”
    • “Your point is?”
    • “Yeah, and?”
    • “Really.”
    • “Let me know when you get to the funny part.”


  3. Articulate the obvious.
    When your child is being provoked, s/he can respond simply by pointing out, without judgment, what the other child is doing that is bugging h/her.  Rather than saying, “Stop it! You’re annoying me.” (usually in a whiny, dramatic way), say, “You are kicking my chair.” By stating the obvious calmly, the provocative child has the chance to save face and stop the kicking.
  4. Ask a distracting question.
    This technique can only be used on one occasion. However, when used sparingly, it can be very disarming.  When a group is ganging up on your child, for example, ask h/her to turn directly to the group and innocently ask, “Do you have the time?”  or “When is our next class?”.  The group is taken off guard and may just answer the question.

If you are interested in more ideas for coping effectively with bullying, both of my books, “Raise Your Social IQ” and “Outnumbered, Not Outsmarted” include chapters on coping with bullying.

Try to find opportunities to ally your child with folks who can buffer them against teasing.  Even increasing proximity to a positive peer lessens the likelihood of bullying.  Just one friend can be an enormous buffer against future teasing.

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