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Handling Bullies: Tips for Parents and Children

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." The Early Show continues its series on back-to-school issues with a very serious topic that confronts a great many students: bullying. The bully has been around as long as the little red schoolhouse, and Dr. Lawrence Balter offers some practical and realistic suggestions on what can be done about this age-old problem.

Until recently, researchers disagreed on exactly how bullying should be defined. But most now describe it as any act of physical or verbal aggression by a person against someone who is weaker--that is, smaller, less popular, or less secure. Hitting, taunting, or manipulating others into doing things against their will are examples of bullying, as is ostracizing another person.

For some children, bullying can be a shattering experience that can take years to overcome.

  • It has the potential to profoundly shake their sense of justice.
  • It can lead to a lowering of emotional security and self-confidence.
  • It can cause psychological symptoms and dysfunctional behavior.
  • It may cause some kids so much anxiety that they are actually afraid to go to school or become too worried to concentrate on their work.

The following is his advice for parents:

  1. Report bullying: Parents need to teach kids that when it comes to bullies, "telling" you about it is not the same as "tattling" on someone just to get them in trouble. There is a mistaken stigma attached to turning someone in for bullying. Also, fear is involved.
  2. Avoid confrontations: Let your kids know that it's okay to avoid confrontations by walking away from a situation. You are not a coward if you avoid a confrontation.
  3. Avoid being alone: There is safety in numbers. Remind kids to travel in groups whenever they can.
  4. Don't turn a blind eye: If they see a kid being bullied, they should get help. Knowing that something can be done reduces feelings of helplessness.

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