Every child deserves to be protected from bullies. Often we can't stop the bully, but we can help children to reflect and process their experience, and instill in them a resilient attitude towards any further offences so they feel confident and secure.
Bullying is a misuse of power.
It is a behaviour that seeks a reaction.
Take away the reaction and suddenly that behaviour has no power.
Take away the reaction? How?
Taking away the reaction means not being offended - a tall order for a child and sometimes impossible for the parent of a child who has been bullied. Our protective instincts flare when our child has been in the firing line of a bully. How dare they cause intentional harm to our child - our blood begins to boil. (You could multiply this feeling by 100 if you were once exposed to bullying yourself as a child).
Here are three ways we can help children not to feel offended:
First and foremost is to not be offended ourselves,
Help the child gain an understanding into why kids bully, so they can have a new perspective and realise it has nothing to do with them personally, and
Build your child's positive self image.
1: Don’t be offended yourself - What to say:
The way we respond to our child’s concerns, when they tell us what a bully has done, is the make or break moment. When our own emotions are running high we risk the possibility of sending a (unintentional) unhelpful message of despair.
Remaining comfortable and curious is key: suppressing all anger (oh no he didn't),
sadness (my poor baby), and frustration (how can we stop this), just for now.
Its important then to acknowledge their concern in an empowering way, rather than in a pitying way. Why? A child is only a victim if he feels like a victim, and the chances are right now he is not sure how he feels.
Examples of a pitying response could be:
“Oh my gosh, that’s terrible, how dare he! You poor thing.”
Examples of an empowering response:
“You were (insert offence here) made fun of.”
“Are you O.K?” – focus on being available and curious rather then outraged.
Then, bravely listen.
You see, your child is testing you - to see how you feel about this, so he can decide how he should feel. Generally, if you’re O.K, he will be O.K.
When he has finished speaking, be curious with your questions. “Hmmm, what did you think of that?” “What did others think of that?” “I bet your wondering why he said/did that?!” Then, bravely listen some more.
2: Help the child gain an understanding.
It is helpful to have a discussion on why some kids are unkind. There are many reasons, but here are a few that I have used.
Some kids feel bad about themselves so they treat others badly,
If kids are trying to pull you down it’s because your above them,
Sometimes kids are being bullied themselves so they bully others,
Sometimes they think it might make them more popular or funny, or
Maybe they are trying to make themselves feel more important.
Children learn through a continuous process of experience followed by reflection, followed by experience, followed by reflection. They often get stuck in the experience if they have no one to share their ideas and feelings with. We can help this cycle progress by creating a safe place for them to reflect on what happened.
Reflecting can be about:
3: Build your child's Positive self image.
To reduce the effects of a cruel world we can take action proactively at home. Build your child's self worth and create resilience by promoting their strengths. Help your children discover their own unique talents and qualities, and to value to their identity.
When they feel so valued and worthwhile at home, they can hold their head high at school. This way when they cross paths with a bully, they wont be offended by labels and criticism, because they are so secure in who they are - it simply just does not fit.
The messages a child receives when we respond this way:
People are not always kind, but I will be o.k.,
I can tell my Parents/Nanny anything, and they won’t react or get mad,
My Parents/Nanny help me to solve problems and give me ideas,
How people treat me is not a reflection of my self worth, and
I am not offended by other peoples criticisms.
If your child seems deeply upset and traumatized by the event (and you can be sure it is not a reflection of how your feeling) then I would suggest seeking the advice of a professional who specializes in coaching children through difficult situations.
If you would like to learn more about how to tailor this information to a specific situation in your home - I would love to help. Contact us here.