Family: Facing Bullies

The threat many American teenagers fear most is not Saddam Hussein, but a schoolyard bully. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, six out of 10 American teenagers witness bullying in school at least once a day. "The biggest mistake parents make is telling their kids to just ignore the bullies," says Jodee Blanco, a former victim turned activist. Parents should listen closely when their children say they are being harassed and help them devise assertive--not aggressive--responses. Make sure your child knows he or she is not alone, but "don't rush in to solve the problem for them," advises Barbara Coloroso, author of "The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander." Most bullying is verbal, so teach children how to use words to defend themselves. (One response for insults like "dork" or "retard" is "That's beneath both of us.") It's harder to pick on a group, so make sure your kid has a buddy (or two). Notify school officials if you think there's a threat to your child's physical safety, and encourage your kid to walk away if bullies try to force a fight. Also watch how your kid behaves with others--he or she may be doing the bullying. If your child mistreats a playmate, correct the behavior in front of the victim. And then devise an appropriate punishment--like limiting time with friends.

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