No One Likes a Bully
When your kids are babies you can pretty much shield them for anything and everything that will cause them harm. When they do get hurt your instinct is to scoop them up, hug them, wipe their tears and tell them everything is going to be alright.
But, as they get older you begin to realize that you can’t protect them everything and everyone, for that matter, that will try to hurt them. They will fall both figuratively and literally and have to learn how to dust themselves off and get back up again.
Although it may be tempting to be that “lawnmower parent” and try to smooth the path to get rid of any road blocks that may get in their way, the better solution (I think) is to give them the tools necessary to get around those roadblocks…by themselves.
One of the big roadblocks many kids will encounter as they get older and go to school is bullies. No matter what type of community you live in or what type of school your child goes to, bullies are everywhere. They were there when we were kids and they’re still there now. But these days it seems like bullies are of the 2.0 version. They’re more sophisticated in their mean ways, there’s more of them, and they seem to be immune to the fact that they can cause serious harm to the person they’re bullying.
Ways to handle a bully
Rather than be “that mom” who confronts your child’s bully, teach them ways to handle a bully as well as how to avoid becoming one.
Be ready to respond. Help your child have a list of responses ready when the school bully approaches. Sometimes you need to be quick on your feet which can be hard for some kids. The responses don’t need to be long and drawn out. Just a simple “don’t do that” or “stop” needs to be said to get the message across. Don’t respond by bullying back. That defeats the whole purpose.
Ignore the bully. If your child doesn’t want to engage with the bully teach him to just ignore whoever is bothering him. Many times bullies thrive on attention from their bad behavior. By ignoring them your child is showing that he has no time for such behavior.
Report bullying. These days many schools have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bullying. Tell your child he’s not being a tattle-tale if he’s telling a teacher about bullying. Bullies need to be stopped and learn there are consequences to their actions. It starts by letting adults in charge know.
Help your child to feel good about himself and be brave. When someone keeps knocking you down it can be hard to muster up any feelings of positivity. As a parent you can help rebuild the self-confidence a bully has destroyed. Tell your child all the good things about them and why you love them. They need to hear it. Also try to encourage your child to be brave no matter how hard it is. When your child stands tall and asserts himself he’s giving off a “don’t mess with me” vibe. This can help because if a bully sees a weakness he’ll likely continue being hurtful.
How to prevent your child from becoming the bully
As much as we would like to think that our precious little flower could never bully someone, the truth is that it happens. As parents we need to take off our rose-colored glasses and admit it. Although you may provide a stable home and instill positive values, sometimes outside influences can negatively affect your child’s actions. From peer pressure to what they see on TV and the movies, kids can start to act out. The trick is to nip it in the bud before it even starts. Here’s how…
Teach kindness. I tell my girls you don’t need to be BFFs with everyone and like everyone you see, but you do need to be kind to them. That means being polite, saying hello, please, and thank-you and helping out when you can. It’s also important to teach them never to say they “hate” anyone. This word makes my skin crawl but kids throw it around like it’s nothing. As adults we know hatred can spawn some ugly situations. We can help stop hatred before it starts by taking the word out of children’s vocabulary.
Put yourself in another person’s shoes. Many bullies can dish it out but they can’t take it. If you sense your child is being mean to someone or may have some unkind ideas up their sleeves, ask them how they would feel if someone was unkind to them. Chances are you’ll hear crickets because they won’t say a word. This is because they know the behavior is wrong.
Be aware of your child’s influences. Don’t turn a blind eye to who your child hangs out with at school or which shows they watch. If they have a phone (because some young ones do) you need to be even more mindful of what they’re looking up or who they’re talking to. All of these things can influence your child’s behavior and may put bullying on the radar when it never was before. Ask your child who they have lunch with. Monitor what they’re watching and especially what they’re doing on the phone.
Set a good example. This may seem like a “duh” statement but you would be surprised at how much kids pick up from us. They see how we treat people and handle conflicts and internalize that more than you think. For starters, don’t call people names. If your kids hear you do it, they’ll think it’s okay and do the same. Also, try to handle conflicts by talking calmly rather than yelling and getting aggressive. Again, if kids see that you don’t get angry like the Hulk when you’re mad, then they’ll begin to learn the right way to deal with their feelings and other people.
Parenting is tough work, especially as kids get older. I always thought it would get easier, but I’m learning quickly that it doesn’t because there’s so much more to worry about, including bullying. That’s why it always important to remind your kids that there is value in being a good person. It will take them far in this crazy world!
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