The hottest question in schools across North America these days is "Can you teach kids to be bullyproof?"
Statistics show that 1 out of 5 kids are bullied...... Boosting their risk of depression, anxiety and even suicide. And in response to the escalating problem, the anti-bullying market has exploded. Today there are hundreds of books, websites, and martial arts classes that claim they can teach kids to take on the mean kids.
But do they work? Psychologist Dr. Joel Haber was a consultant on the recent movie documentary "Bully". He says, you don't need to spend a bunch of money on expensive DVDs, or enroll your kid in fancy seminars to bullyproof them. The real secret is knowing how bullies operate, and shifting the power in your child's favor.
Dr. Haber says that bullies choose the easiest targets as their victims, the loners because they're often insecure and don't have an army of friends to back them up. So the best way to make sure your kid isn't a victim is by making sure they have a wide circle of friends. They should also go out of their way to befriend other kids who don't have buddies.
And they should start in preschool - which is when experts say kids first start picking on each other.
So, how can you figure out how big their current social circle is? Ask specific questions. For example, instead of asking "How was school?" Try "Who did you sit with at lunch today?" Or "Are there any kids in your school that sit on the bus alone?" Then, encourage your child to be friends with those kids, and have your child expand their social circle as much as possible, like through sports, hobbies, or religious groups.
Having a wide variety of friends will make your child happier and boost their confidence. And if a mean kid does try to take a jab at them, odds are they'll react assertively. And since bullies expect a fearful reaction, it'll throw them off, and they'll move on.