Your child comes home from school crying. He tells you the kids are calling him “fat” and making fun of him. Your heart sinks. What do you do now? This is a classic case of parent versus bullying! You need to teach your child the strength to overcome bullying!
For a lot of parents, the thought of their child being bullied has never occurred to them. My child is fun, outgoing and has lots of friends. Why would anyone want to pick on their sweet baby?
None of that matters when your child is out there, on their own, in the big world, even if it is just kindergarten. But what do you do now?
First, talk to your child. Find out what happened and how it made him feel. Maybe he took a joke the wrong way or maybe he simply misunderstood a conversation. Find out, repeat it for confirmation, and try to understand how he feels about the incident.
While we’re talking about feelings – parents need to find out as much as they can about your child’s self-esteem. Does your child respect and love themselves? Self esteem is a reflection of one’s confidence. We can teach our child to love himself and that will boost his confidence. Bullies don’t get very far with confident kids.
After assessing your child and the incident (and cheering up your little one!) you must decide what actions need to be taken. Is this an isolated incident or has it happened before? Do you need to notify the teacher, the bully’s parents or the principal?
Regardless of what action you take at school or with the bully (or his parents); you MUST acknowledge the feelings of your child. You must show him that you care and that you understand what he is feeling. It is also important that your child knows he can come to you anytime and discuss any bullying (or anything!) that happens. Your child must be taught that he is strong, amazing and special. Teach him that his feelings, no matter what they are, are valid. He has to have self-worth in order to overcome this.
Teach your child to stay away from the bully if he can. Help him come up with different activities or different friends he can have that will put distance between him and the ones causing him trouble.
Your child should also know that whenever bullying occurs he can go to his teacher or to another adult and tell them what is happening.
You can also use this (hopefully isolated) incident as a future learning experience. The next time your child teases or says something hurtful to a parent, friend or sibling, you can remind your child of how they felt when they were bullied. Ask him if being teased made him feel good and when he says “no,” you can point out that he is causing others to feel that same way by teasing them. Maybe then he will think twice and discontinue this behavior.
We’ve acknowledged that there are ways to deal with this after happens, but I sometimes wonder what other options we have. Is there anything we can do to prevent bullying?
How about this – how about we address the issue BEFORE it becomes an issue? What if we take the time to teach our children not to bully anyone and also educate our children and teach them that they may become victims, even if they are innocent? We can prepare our children for the real world, even at a young age, at their level.
Our children are given to us with the hope and expectations that we will be there for them unconditionally. The idea is that we will teach them to be strong and knowledgeable about themselves and the world that we all share.
In summary, the unfortunate reality is that all through life we experience hurtful situations. Every one of us will get hurt. That is one truth that we can’t avoid. How we respond to our pain is character defining. When our children are young building strength in their values and confidence is a priority. We must set aside time, specifically for our children, to talk to them and help them realize their strengths. Challenge your child, teach them what they are capable of, make them laugh and recognize that they are valuable, even if the bully on the playground says differently. A child that is aware of the negatives in our world, before they happen, will be more like to handle bullying in a less devastating manner. They are more likely to brush off the comments rather than dwell on the pain.
When it comes to our children, we must think ahead, we must use our wisdom as a way of protecting our children from the cruelty of the world. A child who knows what could be headed their way will be able to handle it.