Building children's self-esteem to prevent bullying

Children who are socially withdrawn, shy, and appear to lack self-esteem are more likely than other children to be targets for bullying. Children who appear confident and strong are better able to discourage children from harassing them.

Parents and other important adults in a child's life can use these suggestions to help boost a child's self-esteem:

  • Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports or drama, which can raise a child's confidence and sense of mastery. Sports, in particular, also help build strength, which can level the imbalance of physical power between children. Some children may prefer individual sports (such as karate, gymnastics, and swimming) over group sports (such as soccer or baseball). Drama classes can help children project strength and confidence, even if they don't feel it at first.
  • Help children become involved socially with other children through school, church, or community activities. This way, children will build social skills and learn to be at ease with others. Children who have friends and "hang out" with them at school are less likely to be targets for bullying than lonely children who have no social support.
  • Role-play with children to show them how to appear confident and how to handle encounters with children who harass them. Help children learn to look people in the eye and to speak with a strong voice—but not shout—when talking to would-be bullies.

Last Updated: January 14, 2009

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