When a parent walks into just about any elementary school, the parent will see the signs.

“Bully Free Zone.”

“Be Bully Free.

“You can be bully free!”

“Together we can be bully free!”

It sounds great. Younger children are invariably less vicious than older children, and the younger children are not typically subjected to the kind of bullying that pre-teens and teens may have to endure.

Of course, those young children eventually grow to become pre-teens, and at some point, it becomes evident that these anti-bullying measures aren’t working. 

Bully Free Zone?
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Some children like to tease others. Other children follow behind the children who are doing the teasing. Those being teased do not know how to react and might try to get along. However, some are bigger targets than others, and the teasing escalates until it crosses a certain line. The person being teased is now being bullied, despite years of hearing that the school will not tolerate bullying.[3030]

A parent may become outraged and visit the school principal, but the school principal has never heard of the child and is completely unaware of the bullying. The child’s teacher is likewise unaware of the bullying, perhaps only acknowledging that the child being bullied seemed “sad” or “down.”

Meanwhile, the children themselves develop something akin to a prison code. If the bullied child tells a teacher, it will get worse. If the bullied child fills out an anonymous bully report, it will get much worse. Adults think it is senseless that children would not follow procedures that could end the bullying. The children are more concerned about their peers, so they don’t report anything.

On top of all this, many who have studied anti-bullying policies and strategies have concluded that the vast majority of measures fail. Commentators have noted that anti-bullying policies are often based on absurd expectations. For example, Student A might bully Student B, and Student B reports it to the teacher. The teacher tells Student A that the school will not tolerate bullying and that if he continues to do so, bad things will happen. What happens then? Maybe others leave Student B alone, but will this put Student B in a better position? Student B is more likely to be a social outcast, which could set him up for more bullying in the future. At best, Student A might back off Student B for a while, but Student A is far more likely to hold a grudge and will find a way to get even.[3031]

Educational psychologists don’t believe this. A child who walks home from school by himself in fear of some other child beating him up most certainly believes this.[3032]

Is There Any Solution?

There are strategies that can work, but these are more often easier to identify than they are to implement. However, there are methods that have proven to be successful, even for those who lack physical size and are being physically bullied by others.

In 2011, a story emerged out ofCaliforniawhere a 12-year-old child took Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes designed to make the child “bullyproof.” When the child returned to school the following fall, a larger child tried to pick on the smaller child. With the help of his training, the smaller child took the larger child to the ground without throwing a single punch or kick. The larger child had to ask to be let go, and the bullying from that point on ended immediately.[3033]

This is not to suggest that only physical response will end bullying. However, the anti-bullying steps identified by theGracieJiu-JitsuAcademycan apply to verbal abuse as well.[3034]

One of the keys to helping a child overcome a bully is to give the child enough confidence to be assertive. Children who continually take abuse without fighting back are prone to take more abuse. However, a child willing to stand up for himself by being assertive can deter a bully.

A second key is to increase awareness of bullying. The child can learn responses to signs of both physical and verbal abuse. Knowing these responses can also help the child to build confidence.

The final key is to ensure that the child is ready to handle the bully. According to theGracieAcademy, “Only when your child makes it clear that he/she will not tolerate the harassment, will they free themselves of the bully’s torment.”