Being bullied is one of those experiences that no parent ever wants to even think about as a possibility for their child. The repercussions can be long lasting, and the worst part is nowadays, technology has allowed more avenues for bullying. Bullying may be caused by many reasons, but the important thing to address is how to prepare your child even before bullying starts. Today, we’re listing down some tips on how to talk to your child about bullying. Keep reading!
Catherine M. Wallace says, “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”
Give your child undivided attention for 15 minutes a day, just to talk. Kids don’t even use the words “bullies” or “victim”. Those are grown up words. They speak a different language. So don’t forget to pay attention. Instead of asking “How was school today?” Ask more specific questions like: “What’s one good thing that happened today? Was there anything that made you sad? What was your lunch hour like? Who did you sit with? What did you talk about? What was the school bus ride like?” Listen to your child. Listen to your gut. Trust your intuition. You’ll know.
Let your child know the difference between teasing and bullying. Clearly define that bullying is repeated, intentional intimidation designed to cause distress or harm. It’s not a rite of passage. It’s not playful. It’s never okay for anyone to be treated that way, not your child, not his or her classmates–no one. Ask your child what that could mean. Emphasize that the most important response is speaking up. Young people who are being hurtful on purpose don’t want to get caught. Yelling “Stop!” and speaking loudly is usually enough to mitigate the situation. If the situation doesn’t feel safe to speak up, encourage your child to stay calm, stay respectful, and speak to a trusted adult as soon as possible.
Some clear messages you want to repeat to your child are: You are safer if you walk, sit, act, and talk with awareness, calm, and confidence. Keep your head high, your back straight, look around, and have a peaceful face and body. Set boundaries about disrespectful behavior. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Protect your feelings. Refuse to take bullying behavior personally–no matter how personal of an attack is used, it is never about you. It’s about the attacker’s own inadequacies–only hurt people hurt people.
Alan Turing says, “Do you know why people like violence? It is because it feels good. Humans find violence deeply satisfying. But remove the satisfaction, and the act becomes hollow.”
Bullies often target those that they can get a rise out of. Remind your child not to give them that satisfaction. The best self-defense tactic is called “target denial” which means “Don’t be there.” Practice taking a deep breath, walking away, and leaving. Act out a scenario, pretend to be a bigger kid acting aggressively, and coach your child how to veer around and to move out of the bully’s reach. If the bullying is happening online, don’t delete it right away, take a screenshot of it for documentation, then block it.
The reason we feel so bad when we get humiliated is not only because of what was said but usually because of the “audience reaction”. Someone says something mean to you, everyone laughs–how does that feel? But if even just one person in the crowd says “That’s not funny!”, would you feel differently? Encourage your child to make a deal with his or her friends “If you stick up for me, I’ll stick up for you.” A buddy system if you will.
While this sounds the simplest, it is actually the hardest of all. We say and do things sometimes that we’re not proud of. Your kids are watching you, even when it seems like they’re not paying attention. The way you treat other people and the way you expect to be treated, your children emulate. You are their hero, after all. Be mindful of your own sense of entitlement, your body language, tone, and actions. They teach more than your words ever could.