Part of being a kid and growing up is to tease your friends and being teased by them. Your friends know your secrets, they know your mistakes, and they like to razz you about them. However, friends also know not to push the teasing so far that it hurts you or causes you real distress; and that’s the difference between getting teased by your friends and getting picked on by a bully.
Who is a bully?
Bullies find a person’s weakness and will take every chance to exploit it. They will bring it to the attention of others and humiliate that person. Some bullies can guise themselves as a “friend” and make you do things you don’t want to do, or things you are uncomfortable with; calling you uncool if you don’t, or threatening not to be your friend if you don’t do what they tell you to do.
Or even worse, some bullies are physical and will trip, push or fight others for a laugh or to prove their “dominance.” Unfortunately, bullies are a part of school and life, and short of locking our kids away from society, we can’t fully bully-proof our kids. However, we can give them powerful weapons—confidence, compassion, and integrity.
Despite the old saying, words can hurt, and if a child is continually being called a freak, fat, ugly, stupid, etc. they may begin to believe it.
But as parents, we can instill confidence in our children, praising them for all the good things about themselves, taking interest and supporting their hobbies, and always accepting them for who they are and who they want to be.
Instilling confidence in your kids to rise above a bully.
Let your children know that everyone is interesting in their own way. Our differences are something to be celebrated, not ashamed of. A deep-seated feeling of self-confidence can act as a suit of armor against the critical words of others. This confidence will help give your children the strength to stand up for themselves.
Compassion and integrity go hand in hand, and should be taught to every child anyway. This is especially true when dealing with a bully situation. Bullies are often unhappy or hurting from something in their own lives. Something is bothering them that they cannot control, so they lash out at others. This doesn’t give them free reign to be jerks, but it can shed some perspective into who they are. Before stooping to a bully’s level, have your child try to get to know more about the bully. Maybe the bully just needs a friend.
You want your child to be strong, yet compassionate, and confident in their voice. Make sure you talk to your children about the importance of being able to stick up for themselves, and their willingness to stick up for others who may not have the strength to do so themselves.
When confidence isn’t enough.
Sometimes a bully is just too relentless, or things begin to escalate. This is when it is time for you, a teacher, or the school to intervene. Before bullying even happens, you should work to build an open and honest line of communication with your children. Once the lines are open, your child will be able to feel safe in coming to you with their problems. Especially when dealing with a bully problem, you should never brush your child off, or discredit their feelings. It is in these moments that your child needs your support and understanding.
First, try to get all of the information: who said what, what was your child’s reaction, were other people around, how did they react. Then try to talk your child through a better way to handle or difuse the situation. Remind your child of their strengths and the importance of confidence. And if all else fails, tell your child to report it to a teacher, councelor or principal, and act yourself if it isn’t addressed.
Get in touch if you’d like some help learning the most effective ways to help your child avoid bullying.