By Rosalind Wiseman
Don't tell a kid who's being targeted, "Walk away," "Be nice," "Ignore it." These phrases do not work because most of the time the tween or teen has to interact with the perpetrator again and again, at school, in the neighborhood, online or over the phone. What's more, telling a child to blow off a bully doesn't help her build the skills needed to competently face disrespectful people.
Remember, to those who do not live by the golden rule, "kind" behavior looks weak and may even incite more bad behavior.
Besides being ineffective, these suggestions make kids believe that adults don't understand what they're up against and therefore can't assist them. What to do instead? When your daughter comes to you, say, "I'm so sorry, but I'm so glad you told me. Let's come up with a plan together." Then, if this is someone she has to see regularly, help her think of a practical way to face the bully (which should happen only if she doesn't feel physically threatened; see "Higher Authority," on page 7, for what to do if the direct approach is not the right one). Have her write down what she doesn't like and what she wants to happen. Finally, help her create a script and decide when and where to approach the bully.
You should also explain that success in this situation isn't to make the bully see her point of view or to get revenge. Nor is the idea to become friends with the mean kid. She also shouldn't expect an apology, although she can certainly request one and accept it if it's sincere. The goal is for your child to learn how to be very clear about where she stands in the face of abuse and then communicate that directly to the person causing the problem. What matters most is that she at least try to deal with the situation. Making any attempt, no matter what the outcome, means she's done a good job.