Body language is key to helping your child ward off bullies

Your child’s body language affects how others see and interact with them. It can also change how your child sees him/her self. Encourage them to physically stand and project confidence, even when feeling insecure. Just by showing confidence their chances of success increase while their chance of being bullied decreases.

These tips and strategies can help children feel confident, be successful and avoid being a bully target.


Do show pride

Standing up straight, expanding your chest and your body position, having your chin up, exudes confidence and pride.

Encourage your child to have a good posture, It shows they are sure of themselves. Have them walk with a straight back, shoulders back, arms hanging on the sides, looking forward, own the world. When sitting down, they should sit straight with their back straight and shoulders back, comfortable but back, take space and expand. This will not only help their back and do their spinal column a favor, but it also projects self-confidence and helps them feel more assertive.

When your child feels insecure, that insecurity prompts his/her body to close up, become smaller and insignificant. Each child can force themselves to show the opposite. By changing his/her body position they will show they are proud, open, communicating that are happy with them self, in control and that they have the confidence to do what they wants. This message will prevent bullies from focusing their bullying on your child, since he/she is showing they will not stand helpless; it is known that bullies pick their victims by choosing the ones who appear helpless, as they don’t want to be confronted by their victims, they need to be more powerful than their victim, so they don’t choose people that look secure.

Rephrasing, even when your child feels helpless, he/she will avoid mistreatment by appearing secure. At the same time, when your child shows confidence with his/her body language, the action of expanding the body, opening up and showing pride communicates to himself that same message and makes him/her feel much more secure. By changing how you project yourself physically, you can change how you feel about yourself emotionally. It takes practice, but it works.

Do make eye-contact

Teach your child to show confidence when interacting with others. When talking, working and doing things with others, your child should look them in the eye, not to the floor or any other place. Eye contact is also an important part of communicating, it sends messages back and forth about how the conversation is being taken by the participants. Eye contact leads the conversation to wanted or unwanted places because it gives cues to one-another, making it an important statement to read within the interaction.

Communication is often more about the non-verbals that occur during an interaction, than the actual words spoken. If your child does not make eye-contact, he/she is missing out on important non-verbal information making him/her have little control on the outcome of this interaction.

Do show empathy

Smiling, making eye-contact, a handshake, or just a nod can make a huge difference. These non-verbal empathic messages make the other person start a conversation, or just a non-verbal interaction in a positive note. This is the first impression. First impressions are so important! It creates in the other person’s mind an image of you, either good or bad. First impressions often occur within the first few seconds of an interaction and can set the mood for all future interactions. Help your child get started on the right foot!

When your child is standing proud, makes eye contact and nods in a friendly manner, it is almost certain the other person will like your child and build their own judgment of your child in a positive note. This is the start of a non-verbal conversation, which as it turns verbal will likely be a friendly one.

If the other person is unfriendly to your child’s empathic non-verbal cues, then teach your child to read this message and keep a distance with this person, this conversation is a whole different thing. The non-empathic other person, if looking for a victim to bully, will not choose your child as the victim to harass, but will choose the one that seems vulnerable and will not stand for himself.

Do practice it even when it feels fake until it becomes real

Open, expanded body posture shows that your child’s internal self is valuable, secure and that he/she has no fear or doubts to open up, even when in reality (at the beginning) he or she is insecure and full of doubts.

Forcing oneself into an open position (standing tall and straight, expanding your chest, using larger movements), taking space and “owning” the place makes our bodies produce more testosterone, known to help our power to take action and decreases our cortisol, a substance associated with being in control. Therefore, posing this way creates feelings of power and tolerance for risk. The combination of high testosterone and low cortisol is a profile that is linked to disease resistance, leadership abilities, and appears to be optimally adaptive.

Do support and believe in your child

Let your child know you believe in him/her, that they are very dear to you and that they should always know and remember that. Help them build the much needed self-confidence by letting them know how much they are loved and how much you want them to succeed and be happy.

When your child is insecure, remind him/her how valuable they are to you. Make your child understand that other’s opinion of them is not reality unless they believe it. The words of a mean person are powerless as long as one does not acknowledge them. Let your child understand that he/she has the power to allow others’ words and opinions to impact them or not. Don’t allow your child to give the others-especially the mean ones- that power over him/her. Your child needs to understand that only he/she possess this power, they can let others’ opinions affect them negatively or they can decide to move forward ignoring the negative judgments of others.


Do not stand powerless

Even when it is a natural instinct to close up and make oneself tiny when encountering a person that communicates power, your child must force him or herself not to do so.

Closing up shows powerlessness, vulnerability and sends a message that will be of no benefit to him/her. Hunched postures elicit more depressed feelings (Riskind & Gotay, 1982). Make your child force himself into a stronger, more confident posture. This will send a whole different kind of message.

When your child feels insecure, when he/she is closed to the outside world and feeling small, his/her body language will show that. Please do not allow this to happen, especially when in public, as in school or other social spaces, your child must be open to interact with others, even if he/she does not want to do that.

Your child must acknowledge where he/she is and the right thing to do there. They can avoid interacting too much, if that is what they wants. However, he/she can change the tone of those interactions and the message they are sending by means of their posture. Your child can choose not to interact while still using a confident posture, this way they will avoid unwanted interactions such as the ones vulnerable children suffer from, i.e. bullying.

No matter how fake it feels, standing strong is important. When your child forces him/herself to assume a strong, secure position it will eventually become natural and automatic. And that face feeling will be replaced by true confidence. It takes practice and repetition, but it will become real.

Posture not only shows a message to the others, but it also shows that same message to oneself.

Do not look elsewhere when having a conversation

When your child does not make eye contact during a conversation, he/she is missing out on important cues about the conversation itself and how the other is feeling about it. This can lead to ending a positive conversation short, prolonging a conversation that should be kept short; or it can also make your child continue on a path that is not well-taken, having unwanted outcomes.

Do not emphasize insecure thoughts

Insecure thoughts will only make your child miserable, emphasizing all the negative possibilities around him/her is known to be no good. Help your child minimize insecure and negative thoughts and practice encouraging, positive thoughts, or at least secure and self-assuring ones.

Your child can change his/her body language physically at will. By changing their physical body language they can change their feelings about themselves and their interactions. Their mind can consciously choose to focus on empowering thoughts.

It is known that our thoughts control our emotions, our thoughts and emotions control our body language, and our will can control all of them. Impressively enough it also goes the other way, our body language changes how we think about ourselves and our attitude. So by changing our body language we can change how we feel about ourselves.

Do not negatively judge oneself

Negative judgments will naturally decrease your child’s power. It is known that low power individuals have chronically elevated cortisol levels, these are associated with negative health consequences like impaired immune functioning, hypertension and memory loss (Carney et al, 2010).

Do not express you are cold, insecure and/or incompetent with your body language

When we meet someone, our thoughts seek to answer basic questions: What are his or her feelings or intentions towards me and what is the purpose of this interaction.

These judgments or impressions are done in our brains with little information, just the information used from observations of body language. We combine this with the stereotypes we have in our minds which provide clues to warmth and competence, and we make this judgment. Many times these judgments are on wrong pre-conceptions and appearances.

If your child expresses coldness and shyness with his/her body language, others will judge these messages as if he/she is cold and incompetent. Studies show that these assessments determine whether and how we intend to interact with others.

When a child is judged as insecure or incompetent, he/she is vulnerable to being bullied. Do not let this to happen to your child.

Jumping cartoon

People make judgments about others according to the way they look, move and act, especially what they show with their body language. We all do this, even when it is not conscious, it is natural. So, when interacting with others, our child’s body language takes an important role and will determine part of the outcome. Set your child up for success by teaching them to project a positive strong image.

More expert advice about Parental Advice on Bullying

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Deborah HamuiFounder and CEO

Founder and CEO of Sleep'n Sync. Deborah Hamui is focused in helping children live happier lives while they achieve their goals effectively. Since high school, Deborah was fascinated with neuroscience, however math, her other passion, domi...

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