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Anti-Bully Tools

Learn five quick anti-bullying tools and enable children to communicate better under stress

May 6, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

Have you ever — in the midst of a stressful situation — found yourself at a loss for words? Or maybe you said something you shouldn’t have said?

It happens all the time — and it happens to children, too.

Stress and conflict bring out our worst — through insults, rage and a breakdown in communications. An inability to handle interpersonal stress makes a child vulnerable to bullying, disrespect and ultimately violence.

As more and more schools adopt large-scale efforts to improve school conduct through PBIS and other initiatives, I want to support the good work that’s being done by offering a few de-escalatory techniques that have proven effective in the field of law enforcement and crisis intervention.

Police officers solve problems and make situations better by knowing how to communicate tactically. In my anti-bullying presentations I make a comparison between communications skills that a child needs, and the tool belt that us officers wear around our waists.

Here are five crucial communications skills students should have as part of their “gear:”

  • Respond appropriately — Conflict always seems to catch people off-guard. Yet disharmony and discord are part of the give-and-take that’s present in even the strongest relationships. So instead of getting blindsided by disagreement, children must acknowledge and anticipate the potential for conflict, and be ready with a practiced and appropriate response. A huge mind shift takes place when you know how to respond to a situation, not just react.
  • Get a grip — Reason shuts down once emotions take control. A child isn’t able to respond if he or she lets emotions get in the way; their thinking is clouded and their feelings are raw. In an agitated state, they will invariably say or do the wrong thing. And a bully finds it extremely gratifying to pick on someone who displays anger or, better yet, vulnerability.
  • Block and move — Just as we all know to step away and block a physical punch, children need to know how to deflect and disengage from a verbal attack, too. Again, it’s important to have an anger guard on your emotions, to resist the urge to retaliate. Here’s an example: As an officer in uniform, I hear more than my share of dumb comments about cops and donuts. Instead of snapping off some witty reply, I look at them and say to myself, “Yup, there’s Mister Donut.” I’ve heard it before, I’ve given it a name and put it in perspective. That’s what gives me the ability to smile, turn and walk away.
  • Project confidence — The components of confidence include eye contact, a firm tone of voice and balanced, assertive body posture. These nonverbal qualities are as crucial to a child’s message as his or her words … especially if the message is “would you please stop bullying me.”
  • Treat people right — Indignity takes many forms for children. It can be overt acts like shoving and pushing, or less obvious ones like gossip or exclusion. In too many instances, children pushed to the edge retaliate. In the most drastic circumstances they are pushed to retaliate by taking their lives or the lives of others. The Verbal Defense & Influence methodology has identified five universal truths of how to treat others. You can see how these truths align with your school’s code of conduct and PBIS benchmarks by visiting

As you read through this skill set, you probably notice that these principles are just as useful for adults as they are for children. So feel free to share this list throughout your school community, as stress affects us all.

Thank you for sharing these life skills with the families and children — these leaders of the future will greatly benefit from our guidance