Watching a child become the victim of bullying can be one of the most painful things that a parent has to deal with. Frustration can lead way to anger as your plea to stop the bullying falls on deaf ears. Feelings of helplessness can overwhelm you as you realize that bullying is something that you cannot protect your child from when he or she is away from home. While it may seem like there is nothing that you can do to protect your child, and reverse the effects of the bullying on your child’s self-esteem, there is something very important that you can do. And it doesn’t involve going to the school or to the bully’s parents.

At one time or another every child is victimized by bullying. You were likely bullied as a child, and probably took some part in bullying others. The truth of the matter is that bullying is a natural part of growing up. It’s going to happen, and there’s nothing that you can do to prevent it. But you do play a role in determining whether your child will be adversely affected by bullying, or if they will merely brush it off.

The number one factor that will dictate how bullying impacts your child is his or her self-esteem. A child with high self-esteem will not pay as much attention to the antics of bullies as those children with poor images of themselves. To keep your child’s self-esteem high, make sure that they have a good social group to lean on. Enroll them in sports and extra curricular activities that they enjoy. A self-defense course like Taekwondo also builds a child’s self-esteem and teaches them control. Take an interest in their work and make sure that they feel safe and secure at home. Help them set goals and reward them when they are reached.

Another thing that you can do to empower your child is to teach them the psychology behind bullying so that they will better understand it. Be sure to keep the conversation age appropriate, and explain to your child why bullies feel the need to pick on other kids. Explain to your child that bullies try to make other people feel bad so that they can feel better about themselves. If your child understands that bullies are really very scared children with poor social skills they will probably not be as scared of them.

In addition to helping your child understand why bullying occurs, you need to teach him or her how to deal with it when it does occur. As adults we know that bullies will pass over kids that do not react to their bullying in favor of kids who make the bullying more entertaining by becoming upset. Keeping this in mind, if the abuse is only verbal, teach your child to hold his head up high, walk away and ignore the bully. Teach your child to be proud of who he is. He should know he’s a wonderful person that should be treated with respect.

If there are signs of physical abuse, get involved immediately. Ask your child whether he wants to talk to his teacher or guidance counselor first, or if he would like for you to do it. Stay calm as you talk to your son. You do not want him to think you are angry or disappointed in him. Ask questions to learn more details, such as, “Did he say something to you before things got really bad?” Empathize with your child’s reaction, and tell him that you can see why he is upset.

You can also teach him that fighting back just leads to more problems. Teach him that acting brave and holding his head high and walking away shows that he is not vulnerable or weak. It shows pride in who he is; that he doesn’t have to drop down to the bully’s level.

But more important than teaching them how to deal with the bullying is to give them the tools to walk away from a situation and not give another thought to the incident or the bully. Again, this all comes back to self-esteem. Self-esteem is the foundation of a happy childhood. Instill self-esteem, and your child will thrive no matter what adversity comes his or her way.