by Lori Lite
“More than 160,000 children skip school every day because they feel threatened by another student.” - National Association of School Psychologists
The bully gains power while crushing another human being’s spirit. He or she increases his own self-value and satisfies his need to control others as he steals his victim’s self-esteem rendering them with feelings of worthlessness. But contrary to popular belief, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that children who bully actually have an average to above-average self-esteem. This changes the old belief that bullies have low self-esteem and don’t like themselves. Bullies are confident, have lots of friends, lack empathy, and have a positive attitude towards violence. Any child with less confidence and self-esteem than the bully becomes a potential target. Children that are bullied are facing a complicated multi-faceted dilemma that most adults are unable to unravel. Teachers, psychologists, and bullying experts all argue their various methods on how to stop bullying. Yet bullying incidents continue to rise.
The age of technology has introduced our children to a new age of bullies. Cyberbullying has been added to the list of physical, emotional and mental harassment. Bill Belsey, teacher and creator of the award winning website Bullying.org offers the following definition; “Cyberbullying involves the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.” Technology offer bullies a twenty-four hour hotline to their victims.
If you think your child is safe because he is not the class nerd and he plays football, think again. Technology, desensitized youth, and confident bullies often choose victims that are good looking, athletic, smart, caring and creative. Teachers are often shocked when they hear this particular child is being bullied. Who is this child? Very often he or she is exactly the person the bully wishes they could be. So how do we as parents bully proof our children?
The best line of defense starts at home. In order to bully proof your child take an honest look at your family dynamics.
- Do you bully yourself, beating yourself up for mistakes you make?
- Do you bully your children, over-criticizing them and correcting everything they do?
- Do you bully your spouse or does your spouse bully you? Do you treat each other disrespectfully?
- Do you accept bullying from your friends? Do you remain in unbalanced relationships?
- Do you forget to stand up for yourself?
- Do you ignore sibling rivalry that involves hitting, taunting and teasing?
- Do you model bullying behavior to your children? Making plans to exclude others? Gossip?
- Do you call your children names?
- Do you always intervene on the playground in behalf of your child?
- Do you always try to please others?
- Do you say yes to everything and everyone?
- Do you forget to encourage emotional resilience?
If you have answered “yes” to any of the above questions be aware that this can set up a pattern for your child to either be bullied or become the bully. Like the attraction between negative and positive ions, the child with bullying capabilities will be drawn to the child that endures or witnesses the above behaviors. It is a familiar pattern.
Izzy Kahlman author of Bullies2Buddies believes that we as a society are doing a lousy job of promoting resilience. “Rather than helping kids become people who can weather the slings and arrows of life, we are producing a generation of emotional marshmallows-kid who believe they are entitled to a life in which no one upsets them, and can’t tolerate any insult to their mind and bodies.” Raising children to be resilient is crucial in warding off a bully. The child that reacts emotionally distraught to a bully will only encourage the bully. So what can we do as parents to protect our children without turning them into marshmallows a bully will eat for dessert?
- Raise confident children based on inner belief not false praise.
- Guide children, but allow them to handle normal playground conflicts.
- Socialize your children and seek social skills classes if needed.
- Expose your child to various groups and activities.
- Find groups or activities that support your child’s uniqueness.
- Role-play laughing remarks off, banter, and creating comebacks.
- Introduce coping skills to release anger or hurt feelings.
- Empower children to manage anxiety.
- Maintain strong family connections with parents and siblings.
- Talk to your child about how they feel or the challenges they face.
- Help your child build relationships with peers by creating opportunities.
- Encourage your child to smile and laugh at their mistakes.
It is important for parents to observe their child with an objective eye. Notice the very things a bully would notice. Does your child walk with their head down? Does your child wear bright green fur socks? Does your daughter run over to you when the rest of the girls go to the break room? Does your son only sit with girls at lunch? Many parents believe that the above examples make their child oh so lovable…. But many of these behaviors are a giant welcome sign to bullies. I am an advocate of individuality and creativity, but be warned that it takes a strong and confident child to pull it off. So either make sure your child can rock those fuzzy green socks and stand up to teasing or leave them in the drawer for weekends!
Stress Free Kids founder Lori Lite has created a line of books, CDs and lesson plans designed to help children, teens, and adults decrease stress, anxiety, and anger. Ms. Lite’s books, CDs, and lesson plans are considered a resource for parents, psychologists, therapists, child life specialists, teachers, and yoga instructors. Lori is a certified children’s meditation facilitator and Sears’ Manage My Life parenting expert. Indigo Dreams: Garden of Wellness CD has coping techniques for children experiencing various forms of bullying. For more information visit Stress Free Kids and for daily advice follow Lori on Twitter and Facebook .
Thanks to School Days Magazine for posting this article on their site. A great resource for parents and educators.