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Should kids be taught to fight back or walk away from a bully?

11:21 PM, Nov 6, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- "Fight back," or "Stand your ground," or "Don't back down." These are just a few of the things parents used to tell their kids to do if ever confronted by a bully.
  
Some still teach that, but it no longer seems to be the norm.

Today, bullying is a different animal. There's workplace and school bulling. There's physical and verbal bullying. There's text and cyber bullying.

So, what do you do as a parent when your job is not only to protect but to prepare your kids for life's challenges?

Gary Nichols' parents were clear with him when he was a kid. If he ever got bullied, they told him to, "Knock them straight out."

But he admits, if either of his two young daughters were ever confronted by a bully, he'd want them "to tell me," said Nichols. 

Do not engage, do not fight back, said Nichols. Why? "It's a different world," he said.

Bullying is not new. What is, said Judith Wides, a family therapist, is that "kids can attack kids using multiple means and it becomes easier for kids to gang up on another kid."

"One incident can occur and hundreds if not thousands of kids can know about it within a matter of minutes about an interaction between two kids. That's why it's really important not to take it upon yourself as a child," added Wides, who is also a counselor at the National Child Research Center (NCRC) in Cleveland Park.

Instead, said Wides, kids should tell an adult - a parent or teacher - about what's going on. But some parents still say it's still important for kids to figure it out on their own.

"OK, do report to your teachers, that's fine, but don't let other people bully you," said Reza Vojoodi, a father of three. He said that has always told his children that they have to "stand firmly."

"I think kids trying to resolve them amongst themselves - and if that sometimes means standing up and saying, 'I'm not going to take it anymore.' I think that's part of life," said Chris Murphy.

But Wides stresses that it's a different world. "It's no more, 'Go stand up for yourself, go be a man.' That may work at times, but in general it's better if it's dealt with within the group of children, within the class, within a grade."

She said that kids should still learn to figure it out how to deal with confrontation, but they should be armed with words and adults should set the example.

"I think the important thing is that adults are modeling the capacity to dialogue and the adults are modeling the capacity to have compassion," said Wides.

The website www.kidshealth.org advises parents to tell kids to find alternatives to fighting: tell an adult, avoid places where bullies might be, use the buddy system to travel, count to ten or to just flat out ignore bullies.

Child psychologist Leonard Kaufman said some other possibilities for the shift in approach to dealing with bullies is that schools and workplaces are much less tolerant of bullying than ever before, considering they're facing more legal ramifications than every before.

Bullying is also embedded in the national consciousness in a way that it was not 15, 20, 30 years ago. Today, due greatly to bullying incidents that have turned into tragedies - bullying is openly talked about, there are laws and policies against it.

"Are children coddled? Actually, I think too often children are left to fend for themselves," said Wides. "I think too many are handed their iPad or their iPod or their laptop and left to fend for themselves." 

Shantell Cyr fended for herself in a different way if she was ever confronted as a kid.

"She would kind of take over if someone bothered her - boy or girl," recalled Kim McGlinn, Cyr's mother. 

But if she were a parent today, Cyr admitted that it would be "do as I say, not as I did."

"No kids should not be handling it on their own," said Cyr about bullying. "I don't think so."

Most parents say different confrontations require different approaches. But one thing is for certain it's up to parents to prepare their children. 

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