The thought of our children being bullied - or bullying others - can be terrifying. And while there might not be ways to completely 'bullyproof' our kids, there are several positive steps you can take to help protect your children.
Encourage children to express their opinions by asking for them and listening when they give them. If they express an opinion that is offensive to you explain why you find it offensive instead of just getting angry or telling them they are wrong.
Everybody has something that he/she is good at and likes to do. Encourage your child in anything that they are good at and let them know that you think they are good at it and that it is a valuable thing to be good at. They might be good at running, telling stories, making people laugh, cooking, drawing, looking after brothers and sisters... it doesn't matter what. Try to give them regular opportunities to do things that they are good at and praise them for their abilities. This will help build their confidence when it comes to dealing with things that they're not so good at.
Encourage children to care for and consider others and to reject and challenge bullying behaviour when they see it. The best way to do this is through your own example and through talking to them about why it's important to be considerate of other people and not to put up with bullying. This is not the same thing as fighting with bullies, but just letting them know that you are not afraid of them and that their behaviour is not getting to you (even if it is).
Challenge stereotypes about people based on things like gender, race, religion, sexuality, disability, age, etc. Encourage children to acknowledge and value the things that are different and unique in other people and themselves, instead of rejecting and fearing them as threats to their identity or things that will cause them to be rejected by others.
Teach that bullying others is always a choice and help children to examine why bullying occurs and to work out alternative and constructive ways to resolve conflict situations, and deal with feelings of fear, anger and frustration.
Encourage children to practice co-operation as an alternative to competition at the expense of others. There is nothing wrong with competition, but if children never learn to co-operate and only ever compete against others then they are likely to have problems with social exclusion.
You can find more advice, support and shared experiences in our dedicated Bullying hub.