Time to face the truth, parents.
There's no such thing as "bullyproofing".
We cannot protect kids from ever feeling hurt, embarrassed, or threatened by another kid. As much as we hate it, this is happening to kids. Adults need to stop spending energy trying to create some utopia of a "bullyproof" enviornment.
That doesn't mean we stop advocacy, programming, or education about this issue and just give up. Rather, it means recognizing that there is a time for advocacy and there is time for teaching resilience.
Building resilience in kids is the best way we can help them manage times when the world is cruel.
By telling them what we want them to think. As you talk to your kids about bullying, share with them what you think about it and why some kids do it. This is where you share your values with kids about what you think about bullying behavior and ways you'd like your child to respond when feeling attacked or bullied.
After you share what you think, invite your child to do the same. You might decide to say something like: "I think people who bully have a hard time making friends so sometimes, to be popular, they make fun of someone else. Why do you think kids are mean sometimes? Do you agree that kids become more popular when they put others down?"
Get a sense of what your child thinks. This is an issue that is being openly discussed in schools and classrooms. Kids have opinions about this. They even have ideas on how to fix it. It's important to know your child's opinion.
Listen to what your child thinks and have a dialogue. Ask questions. Here, you are introducing the idea that this is something that is ok for your child to talk to you about and you are assuring him/her that it's ok if you have differing opinions.
These conversations don't have to wait until your child is in grade school, either. It can start with the little ones when they are on playgrounds and in pre-school and get their feelings hurt, even accidentally.
When your child does get his/ her feelings hurt and comes to you, the best thing you can do is stay off the bully bandwagon.
Yes, you heard that right.
Don't jump to an assumption that your child is being bullied whenever his/her feelings get hurt. There is a hyper-awareness in our culture right now to this issue but sometimes the social difficulties that are occurring are NOT bullying. They are just kids trying to find their way in a confusing social scene and sometimes they make the wrong choice.
However, these acts of deliberate or accidental cruelty can really affect a child, even if it just happens once and isn't a chronic problem.
When a child comes to you and talks about an upsetting incident, continue to stay off the bully bandwagon. I know it's hard but practice.
Instead, get information. Learn about what happened. Ask questions about what was going on before the incident and try to get a sense of what led to the incident.
Ask your child what he/ she did as a response. Then ask, what they wish they had done. Sometimes the teaching lies in what the child didn't do.
Ask your child's permission before you jump into problem solving. They just may want some TLC and for you to listen. After exploring what happened, and your child's experience of it, share what you think.
Recognize your child's choice and share your opinion and value on it and then share how you might have handled it.
Don't rescue. Unless there is an immediate safety concern, try to avoid taking matters into your own hands and solving the problem quickly. Include your child in any response and decide together what you will do. Parents of little ones who can't speak for themselves will have to use discretion as to what is appropriate.
Ask your child if the bad feelings have gone away or if they are still hurting. Offer some TLC and comfort, if they are still feeling bothered.
Once your child is calm, create a plan with your child for "next time". This is the best tool for teaching and best way to build resilience. Practice what your child can do next time something like that happens. Offer options and maybe walk through the pros and cons of each option.
It's so easy as an adult to just tell a child what to do when they are bullied. The problem with that is that kids are often left with the impression that us adults "just don't get it. Resiliency is built when a child chooses his/her own plan and tries it out.
This issue is something that everyone is talking about these days. Our conversation about it will not end here and I invite you to have a dialogue with me about your thoughts, ideas, or questions.
This is a tough talk to have with your kids and can be really emotional for parents. I happen to know a lot about tough talks with kids.
Let me know if I can help.
Until next time,