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Empowerment Strategies for picked-on kids

What kids can do about bullies

What kids can do about bullies

According to the National Education Association, an estimated 160,000 kids a day skip school for fear of the way they will be treated by their peers. Many kids dread leaving the house because of constant harassment. If your child is one them, it may be helpful to share the following excerpt from The Kids' Guide to Working Out Conflicts, a new book by Naomi Drew, M.A.

Know That You Have Worth and Value

Kids who are bullied tend to think they're being picked on because there's something wrong with them. This is absolutely not true. People who bully are looking for an available target, so they latch on to the next convenient person they feel they can have power over. You just happen to be that person, and when it isn't you, it's going to be someone else. So if you're feeling that the bullying is somehow your fault, let go of that idea. It's not your fault. No one deserves to be bullied. Period.

Too often kids who are bullied keep the problem inside because they feel embarrassed or ashamed. Doing this only makes it worse. Shame and silence can make you forget the power you have inside. Always remember that you have worth and value. You don't have to be thin, cool, smart, white, black, well dressed, free of handicaps, or good in sports to be worthy of respect. Your uniqueness is what makes you special.

Unfortunately there are too many kids who believe that the only way to be popular is to dress, talk, eat, act, and look like everyone else. Well, they've got it backward. The most interesting people in life are the ones who don't fit into any particular mold. So know that you don't have to let anyone else's words or actions make you feel less than you are.

READ MORE: "I'm not going to school!" -- What's a parent to do?

Prepare Yourself

Working on your self-esteem and self-confidence will help you deal with bullying from a place of strength. And being strong outside is as important as feeling strong inside. You can prepare yourself to deal with bullying so you're able to take strong, smart action when it happens.

Have you ever heard the saying "There's strength in numbers"? People who bully often look for kids who are alone. By finding people to hang out with, you can help keep yourself from being approached by a bully in the first place. Another strong move is to rehearse ways to respond to bullying. It's hard to think of what to say on the spot when someone's being mean to you. Practicing ahead of time, in front of a mirror or with another person, really helps.

Four Keys To Defending Yourself

Assertive words:

Here are a few examples of things you can say when someone tries to pick on you:

• Don't talk to me that way. Do you understand?

• I totally disagree.

• I'm not going to listen to this stuff.

• I'm not going to take this.

• Your words are meaningless to me.

• It seems like you're enjoying trying to make me feel bad, but it's not working.

• Stop it.

Steady voice:

Work on keeping your voice firm and strong without shouting. You want your tone of voice to communicate that you're in control (even if you don't feel that way inside). The more you practice and use an assertive voice, the more in charge you'll feel.

Eye contact:

It's important to look directly at the person when you speak. Looking down or away removes the power of your words.

Body posture:

Stand straight. Keep your chin high and your shoulders square. This sends a message of strength and confidence.

Don't forget to breathe!

When you're frightened or nervous, your breathing becomes shallow, making you more frightened or nervous. You can reverse this by practicing deep abdominal breathing. The more you use deep breathing, the more calm and in control you'll feel when you face the person who's been picking on you.

Mental rehearsal:

This will help "reprogram" your brain from fear to strength. Every night before you go to sleep and each morning when you wake up, take a few deep abdominal breaths. Then picture yourself successfully dealing with the person who's bullying you. In your mind, imagine yourself standing and feeling brave and strong. See your eyes looking straight into the other person's. Hear your voice saying assertive words with firm confidence. Then watch yourself walk away strong and proud.

(Excerpted from "The Kids' Guide to Working Out Conflicts" by Naomi Drew, M.A., copyright © 2004. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 866/703-7322; freespirit.com. All rights reserved.)