It’s absolutely heart wrenching to hear your child come home from school and tell you that some other child has been bullying them. Your first thought is “How dare that child touch my baby”. This is one of the most difficult situations a parent can find themselves in. One on hand, you want to teach your child to be assertive and not allow them to be victimized by bullies. On the other hand, you don’t want to promote aggression by telling them to take matters into their own hands. What is a wise parent to do?
Firstly, it is critical to identify your own beliefs and values about conflict. Some helpful questions to consider include from your perspective;
When is it okay to strike back during the bullying experience?
What if your child has tried all the positive alternatives, and is still a target for the bully?
What if your child has told the powers that be, and they have failed to put measures in place to protect your child?
What if you have a timid child that could benefit from sticking up for themselves and develop some esteem by fighting back?
These along with many other questions need to be pondered. Our suggestion is that when addressing how to deal with bullying, take the following steps;
PREPARE YOUR CHILD FOR THE BULLYING EXPERIENCE
Have a candid and open conversation about being bullied. Talk about all the different possibilities that could be presented. Discuss what bulling can look like, physical, emotional, cyber etc. Propose scenarios and ask your child what they would do if faced with a particular situation. Get your child acquainted with the possibility that this could happen and prepare them for what to expect.
CORRECT THE PERCEPTION OF CONFLICT AS NEGATIVE
Inevitably, conflict is a part of life and it is important the children understand that. Your child’s first encounter with conflict could be life saving in that it gives him/her first hand experience of what happens when two people are at odds, and challenges them to look for solutions. If as a parent, you perceive conflict as negative and something to avoid, this may trickle into the beliefs of the child and they may fail to get the lessons that are inherent in problem solving. Reinforce a more realistic perception that conflict is a part of life and it’s a matter of how you deal with it that is important.
TEACH YOUR CHILD TO WARN, WARN AND THEN WARN AGAIN.
Many times, even as adults, we fail to offer mercy to our offenders and prematurely strike back without giving due warning. Warnings are good when dealing with people, even bullies, because it lets them know that you’ve taken the offense seriously and are given them grace to make amends or change their behaviour. Warnings also prepare you mentally and physically for what could follow. Warnings are generally a good practice because it offers the offender an “ out “ before things get to the next level. A warning could ultimately result in the resolution of the offence . When warnings fail to work, then your child must consider alternatives.
Being Assertive is extremely powerful in dealing with bullies. However, many people assume that being assertive is the same as being aggressive. To be clear, assertiveness is very much an attitude of self respect. A knowing within one’s self of their rights and a determination to live out those rights through whatever power avails itself.. Being assertive can be seen in how one portrays body language, one’s statements and one’s behaviours. Letting your child know their self worth and conveying to them the importance of self respect is critical. When a child knows their rights as human beings, as boys and girls, as citizens of a school, as individuals who have the right to protect their feelings, integrity and even their bodies , this goes a long way in helping them assert themselves when confronted by bullies.
REPORT WITH CONDITIONS
Parents and adults can often be heard saying things like “tell the teacher or tell an adult. However sometimes we fail to put ourselves in the shoes of the child. Nowadays, being a tattle tale or a snitch has a very negative connotation. and sometimes that is even worse that being bullied. Reporting that you are being bullied is a definite must but it should be done with conditions that the child is comfortable with. Perhaps, the child does not want to known as the person who reported the offense and that has to be taken into consideration. It is important that parents and teachers are thoughtful about approaching and protecting the child from the snitch profile. If you are going to tell your child to report it to their teacher, make sure you also tell your child to let the teacher know he or she would like to be protected from the repercussions. This may require parents, teachers and authorities work together for the purposes of developing a plan to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s.
For more information on helping a child who has been bullied, or addressing a child that has a tendency to bully, call Positive Kids at 1-866-503-7454. We are child therapists, counsellors that work with children who struggle with Aggression, defiance, Timidness and even shyness. We offer a curriculum that helps children to become more assertive, confident and develop self respect. Email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org