How to make your kids 'bully-proof'


by MIMI JUNG / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @MimiJungKING5

Posted on February 22, 2011 at 1:30 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 22 at 3:16 PM

School should be a place where kids learn and make new friends. But for one mom, it's a place of terror for her son.

"They marked him from the beginning on the first day of kindergarten," she said.

But nothing she tried worked.

"I spoke with the bus driver. I've spoken with each teacher that he's had," she said. 

She turned to Dr. Joel Haber, a psychologist who said parents can help their kids become "bully proof."

"A parent calls me in desperation because their kid has been bullied. They don't know what to do and their kid doesn't want to go back to school," he said.

Dr. Haber said how a parent reacts can mean the difference between helping their kid and making things worse.

"Most parents feel that rush of adrenaline, that emotion, and they want to take control of it themselves," he said.

That's a big mistake, said Dr. Haber.

"They cut off their kid from talking to them," he said.

He showed a mom how to talk to her son about the bullying and then role play ways to diffuse it.

Role playing doesn't work with older kids. Most bullying there happens online.

"Kids are way ahead of parents on technology, and parents need the skills to deal with that so they can feel safe when their kids are using technology," said Dr. Haber.

He has different advice for parents dealing with cell phones, Facebook and MySpace - the tools older kids use to bully.

"My goal always is when parents bring technology into a home is have them just set up parameters and rules," said Dr. Haber.

Tell your kids that cell phones and computers are a privilege and will be taken away if they are used for hurtful behavior.

He also advises parents to Google their child periodically and friend them on Facebook to keep tabs on their online communication, save and print all evidence of cyberbullying and learn the language of the Internet to monitor texts.

Michelle Boykins from the National Crime Prevention Council also has tips to prevent cyberbullying.

"We recommend that you keep your computer or the laptop in a central location that allows you to see what's going on," she said.

Boykins points to research which shows bullying of any kind can have long lasting effects on kids.

"This is so devastating to our young people. They experience a drop in grades, isolation, they have mood swings and depression," she said.

And it's alarmingly common.

"In our research we found that 43 percent of kids report being the victim of bullying," said Boykins.

That's why she supports using a bully coach or other resources to stop it.

"The National Crime Prevention Council's website has a wealth of information for parents and for young people on the issues of bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting," she said.

Information about bullying

Anti-bullying tips from the National Crime Prevention Council

Dr. Joel Haber, PhD is a clinical psychologist, the founder of Respect U and the author of "Bullyproof Your Child For Life: Protect Your Child from Teasing, Taunting, and Bullying for Good." Website: