schoolbusBullies, unfortunately, are a fact of life for many children. Aggressive behavior between children — the kind that goes past teasing or playing and right into cruelty — is such a part of the national discussion that there are now official government-run websites dedicated to helping parents and kids learn how to deal with bullying. Bullies tend to strike when kids are at their most vulnerable, which often happens when they’re separated from adult supervision; in other words, the school bus is a prime location for bullying to happen. But if your kids ride the bus, they don’t need to live in fear. There are plenty of ways you can help them deal with bullies on the bus, from mood-based techniques to rules for confrontation. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Listen to Your Kids

It’s important that you really listen to your kids when they try to tell you about being bullied. It’s one thing for a child to complain about a new situation or a difficult day. It’s something else entirely for him to feel threatened and trapped, which is just how bullies make people feel. If your child has a legitimate bully problem, it’s crucial that you listen to what he has to say and work with him to solve the problem. The comfort you can provide simply by acknowledging the problem will be immense.

Avoid the Bully When Possible

This is a simple rule, and it’s one that parents have been passing down for eons. But that’s because it works, and it’s often one of the best ways to deal with a bullying situation. If your child is dealing with a bully, teach him to look for ways to avoid confrontations. For instance, if the bully hangs out toward the back of the bus, encourage your child to sit at the front, especially if it means he can sit closer to the driver. Bullies look for opportunities to harass kids out of the view of adults, so the driver’s proximity can help.

Don’t Retaliate

Life is not a movie, and you are — unfortunately — not the hero who rides into town to mop up the bad guys. Don’t retaliate against the bully or the bully’s family. Your child will likely want to fight back, and you’ll probably want to go on the warpath when you learn that your child is being threatened on a regular basis on the bus that’s supposed to safely transport him to and from school. But don’t fight back. It’s the beginning of a cycle of events with no end, and worse, it doesn’t solve the problem. It doesn’t get rid of the bully, it just gives the bully someone to fight with.

Keep a Calm Head

Bullies are looking for attention from their targets. They want someone they can pick on and control. When your child fights back, gets angry, gets upset or takes the insult too seriously, he’s playing right into the bully’s hands. Teach your child to ignore the bully’s taunts; to ask the bully to stop; and to find an adult or a safe space if he feels threatened. There’s no sense having him fight it out with someone who’s looking for a confrontation.

Speak Out

If the bullying persists — or worse, if it escalates — talk to other parents about what’s happening. Part of being in a community with the families of the other children at your child’s school means looking out for everyone’s safety. Odds are good that the bully harassing your child has picked on others. By working with those parents, you can find a solution (like speaking to the parent or guardian of the bully) that works for everyone.

Use Strength in Numbers

A bully doesn’t just want a victim; he wants an easy victim. Talk to your child about safety in numbers, and about how many confrontations can be avoided if he sits with a group of friends on the bus who all look out for each other. A bully might not think twice about picking on someone sitting alone, but it’s a much more intimidating prospect to try to attack a whole group.

Practice Bully Interactions

Simple role-playing can work wonders for helping your child deal with a bully. Act out situations in the comfort of your home that your child can use as guides the next time he’s dealing with his bully. Talk about avoiding confrontation, finding an adult or safe space, defusing the situation with humor and more. Working these things out beforehand, and doing it in a safe and educational space, will let your child address the problems in a stress-free way and go into the bullying situation with more confidence.

Work With School Officials

Bullying on the bus is a health and safety risk for everyone, not just your child. Talk to school officials about the problem, especially if your child is physically harmed or even threatened. Again, don’t retaliate against the bully or the bully’s family directly. Instead, work with teachers and administrators to solve the issue and keep everyone safe.

Courtesy of Summer Nanny