How do you define “bully-proofing” your child? There are things you can do that will help prevent your child from becoming that tortured person who eventually attempts suicide.

There’s a lot out there on “bully-proofing” your children. But is it possible?

“There is no such thing as a bully-proof child,” says Rona Novick, PhD, who developed the BRAVE bully prevention program.

A clinical psychologist, Novick has worked with schools nationally on the issue of bullying, and is director of the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Doctoral Program at Yeshiva University, NY.

“Bullying is so common, virtually all children will experience it at some point in their school career (current research suggests rates over 90%).”

Be aware that there are different levels of bullying; bullying is on a continuum.

Some kids are bullied only within their circle of friends, while others are the individuals whom “everyone picks on.”

And interestingly, some victims even become friends with their bullies eventually.

“In addition, since bullies tend to target victims who react emotionally, and since emotional reactivity is largely a factor of temperament and biological, parents can’t change a reactive child into a cool cucumber,” explains Dr. Novick.

The term “bully-proof,” then, can simply mean doing what you can, as a caring parent, to minimize the risk of bullying.

And this begins by supporting a child’s social development, says Dr. Novick. Being more alone, she says, puts a young person at higher risk of being bullied.

Parents must help their children make and keep friends. However, this can’t be forced any more than you, as an adult, can be forced to feel genuine kinship with a coworker whom you don’t care for.

Lead and encourage, but don’t force play dates or other unwanted interactions.

Another group of individuals who are highly vulnerable to being harassed at school are those with cross-gender behavior or same-gender attraction.

Tomboys, effeminate boys, and gay-lesbian, transgender and questioning-youth are very vulnerable to bullying and also benefit from parental support, explains Dr. Novick.

Thus, if parents have noted that a child doesn’t seem to be snuggly fitting into society’s expectations of their gender, parents need to show unconditional love and avoid criticizing their son or daughter.

This non-judgmental approach can go a long way in “bully proofing” a child.

Dr. Novick is recognized for her expertise in behavior management and child behavior therapy. She has published scholarly articles on school applications of behavior management, children and trauma, and bully prevention in schools.