We all know the century old saying that sticks and stones will break our bones, but words will never hurt us. What a load of hog wash, words can do more damage than a slap in the face. The problem is that often it is easier to identify physical damages than emotional damage. We have all had a situation where we are standing within ear shot and heard a child be down right nasty to another child. This gives us the opportunity to be able to step in and control the situation, making the wrongs right and providing comfort to any child in need.
What happens when you are not there?
Most of this nasty behavior whether physical or emotional happens at school. A place where our children spend most of their childhood. Teachers are always on the look out for any underhanded behavior, but often these children are really sly and sneaky about it and it can often go unnoticed.
When a child is being emotionally targeted, the bully usually picks up on a weakness or something that the child already feels self conscious about and slowly chips away like a talented archeological working their magic on a fossil with a hammer and a chisel. The problem is that this is a slow process and often there is no evidence until the bare remains are left exposed and the damage is done. Unlike a child coming home with a black eye or a blood nose that can be spotted a mile away, emotional trauma is incredibly hard to identify.
There are a few different types of bullies, yes we know about the tough thugs that go around intimidating others with brute force. Then there are the children who find comfort and fulfillment in putting others down to make themselves feel better. There are the children who bully because they are jealous of another child’s achievements. There are children who bully, because they are being bullied themselves and there are the ring leaders that act as a puppeteer, craftily working the strings of those around them to get them to join them in belittling another child. The ring leaders usually act this way to make themselves feel empowered amongst their peers and they also stand less of a chance being punished and singled out if they are backed by their get along gang.
As a parent what steps can you take to ensure that your child is not a victim of bullying?
Communication is Key. First off, ensure that you have open communication with your child, let them understand from a young age that they can talk to you about anything.Ensure that you ask them the correct questions, especially with boys. I say especially with boys, because boys don’t voluntarily give up information. If you ask your child, “How was your day?” You are setting yourself up for a one-word answer and it is usually “Fine”. Instead ask them what they did that day? Who they played with? Did they have a good day? What was the best and worst part of their day? If this line of communication is nothing out of the ordinary, you will be able to detect early signs of your child being unhappy, for what ever reason and you can then deal with it quickly and efficiently. Early intervention is key when it comes to a child being bullied. The quicker you get to the bottom of the problem, the easier it is for your child to verbalize how they are feeling.
Talk to your child about bulling. Explain to them why it is not nice to be mean to someone, whether it is them being mean or someone else. When you are talking about bullying, ask your child what they would do if someone was to bully them. Use their answer to teach them the skills they need to deal with bulling. Ask them if they know of any bullies, and why they think that person is a bully. If they can identify mean behavior, they are far more lightly to be able to deal with it.
Teach your child how to stand up for themselves and to take action. Don’t get me wrong, I am not by any means saying that your child must give the Bully a taste of their own medicine, but they can put their hands in the air and say, “STOP IT, I DON’T LIKE IT”, telling an adult is always a good option. Teach your child the difference between aggressive and assertive behavior. They do not have to be aggressive to be heard.
Think before you react. As helicopter parents, we often want to swoop in and fix the situation, but before you fly into the school with guns blazing, stop and think. Ask your child how they would like you to handle the situation. Sometimes they just need to know that you have their back in order to deal with the situation. Other times they may actually need you to help them by bringing attention to the issue. Remember that you don’t have to deal with the situation alone. Often it is a good idea to speak to the parents of the bully. They may not realize what is going on and will be horrified to hear what their child has been up to. Give them the opportunity to deal with the situation in their own way. I know how mortified I would feel if I found out that my child was being a bully and I would really appreciate the fact that someone had given me the opportunity to chat to my child and get to the bottom of the problem. Should this not work then it is time to get the school involved.
Nurture your child’s friendships by organizing play dates out of school. Children with a good strong group of friends are far less lightly to be bullied. This will also ensure that your child has a good support structure outside the home and this will help them deal with any negative behavior. Social skills are very important for a child to learn as this will give them confidence, empower them, and boost their self-esteem.
Talk about what a Hero is, encourage them to want to be a Hero. This means that they will have to stand up for others. Use their super powers for good. (by super powers I mean talents) Protect others and always strive for good. The hero approach works well as they can visualize super heroes and have an understanding of how they go out of their way to protect others.
Help your child become more resilient to bullying. There’s a lot parents can do to help “bully proof” their kids. Here are two biggies: first, provide a safe and loving home environment where compassionate and respectful behaviour is modelled consistently. Second, acknowledge and help your child to develop strengths, skills, talents or other positive characteristics. Doing so may help your kid be more confident among peers at school.
Here are a few character traits that you need to constantly instil and remind your child of, in order to try and stop them becoming a victim to bulling.
- STAND UP FOR THEMSELVES
- STAND UP FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVE
- OPEN COMUNICATION
- TO BE A HERO
- LEADERS SPEAK UP
- TO BE COMFORTABLE WITH WHO THEY ARE.
Remember that bulling is not just something that your child will outgrow, or that will go away on its own. Your participation is crucial to ensure that the situation has been completely resolved and won’t happen again. Once you have dealt with the situation, you will need to regularly follow up with your child and those involved, including the teachers to ensure that the situation has completely disappeared.
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