Have you heard the phrase ‘victim mentality’? This is the aura that some people can give off when they are low in confidence, which is thought to attract predators such as bullies by showing undisguised weakness. In childhood just as with adults, some individuals seem to have a way of displaying a lack of self-esteem which can make them easy targets for bullies hoping to find someone who will be easy to intimidate. Just as in the animal world the pack will sometimes turn on an animal who seems smaller, weak in some way or unable to defend themselves, so bullies will automatically be attracted to fellow children who display an inability to fight back.
Luckily, children can be supported with just a few simple steps to remove themselves as targets for bullies, safeguarding them against being singled out for intimidation. Try these pointers to encourage an under-confident child to display assertive, confident and secure traits:
For children, half the battle in being confident and displaying this to the outside world is about playing the part. Victims can be identified by the way they shrink in to the background, trying to avoid being noticed – which can, unfortunately, be the one thing which singles them out for attack. Work with your child to encourage them to hold their head up high, have purpose, and sit with confidence and assertiveness. Bullies do not tend to pick on children who look confident and calm.
Target denial is quite simply making sure that your child is not available as a target for the bully. This can be achieved through practise, acting out scenarios where the bully is standing close by, and your child speaks neutrally and confidently, while moving away from the bully. Sometimes, averting difficult situations can simply be a question of changing seats, moving to a different place, or re-grouping with friends to avoid being singled out.
Using your voice
Language is as powerful as physical means in safeguarding your child against victimization. Teach your child to speak clearly, calmly and without fear, asserting all of their confidence through the tone of voice they use, and the words they pick. Simply saying “NO” with volume and confidence, or setting boundaries through sentences such as “Don’t do that” can provide your child with the confidence and strength they need to deflect victimization.
Teaching your child self-defense skills is as much about boosting confidence emotionally, as gaining physical protection. Martial arts classes for children teach them to deflect physical attacks, but also furnishes them with a true sense of their self-worth and capabilities. Classes support kids to work together, establish physical boundaries, and understand the nature of violence and how to prevent it. Confidence will follow, as your child understands that they are not powerless against bullies, but can deflect attacks if they need to.
Sometimes, confidence can come from understanding the perspective of other people and why they may behave in a certain way. In the case of a bully, it can be really helpful to encourage your child to see the bully as the victim. Discuss bullying with your child, explaining that people who pick on others do so because they feel insecure, or under confident. This knowledge can really help your child in a bullying situation to look at the perpetrator and feel pity, rather than fear, empowering them to defend themselves.