John Cowan - Bullying

Publish Date
Thursday, 8 February 2018, 10:12AM
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

By John Cowan

Some kids will be fearful about returning to school because of the dread of being bullied. Here are just a few tips to help.

Take complaints of bullying seriously.

Often kids won’t tell their parents they are being   bullied because they are ashamed or they are afraid their parents will do something embarrassing.  If they do tell you, take it seriously: minimizing or subtly criticizing them for ‘deserving’ the bullying will drive the problem underground.

Teach your child to be assertive, not aggressive.

I reckon poise is a wonderful word – it means knowing you have power and control without having to use it Parents have often asked me if children should learn karate or boxing: I reckon fighting back is an awful response to bullying but the poise and assertiveness it gives kids is often enough to repel bullies. Building self esteem and social networks are great antidotes to bullying.

Help the child identify strategies for dealing with bullying.

Different strategies work in different situations: talk about how not to  provoke bullies, how to avoid them, how to deflect their assault with humour, and how to even win them over as friends.

Give the child positive social opportunities to make friends.

It can be a wonderful emotional ‘holiday’ for a child to have a completely separate social world where the bully isn’t present, and where witnesses of the bullying are not present either. A hobby club, youth group, friends from a different school etc. can provide this.

Make teachers and other caregivers aware of the problem and work together to address it.

With a few sad exceptions, most parents will find teachers willing allies. If a teacher is not willing to engage, kick the problem up to the principal. If the principal won’t take bullying seriously… I don’t say this lightly but you would have to wonder if that was as safe school for your child.

About John

John has been with The Parenting Place ( for seventeen years as their senior writer and presenter.  He had various roles working with youth and families prior to that but actually started his working life as a scientist in neurophysiology at Auckland Hospital.  As well as writing and speaking, John is frequently on radio and television.

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