EMPOWERING YOUR CHILD AGAINST BULLYING
Let’s start by defining what bullying is. First and foremost, it is an abuse of power. A child or a teen uses physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity to control or harm other children. Bullying behavior starts in preschool and increases as children grow older. Surveys show that at least 40% of middle schoolers have admitted to participating in bullying behavior at some point. While you cannot insulate your child, your role as a parent is to support him to develop the awareness and skills to protect himself when necessary.
Here are a few ways to empower your child:
1. Prioritize the emotional connection with your child. Most bullied children are lonely kids who feel not understood or misunderstood. So, by developing a loving and caring relationship with your child, you will remain connected emotionally to your child. Then, when he starts getting bullied, he will open up to you about what happens to him.
2. Role play confident behavior. By advocating and standing up for yourself and your loved ones, your child learns that this behavior is the appropriate one when facing bullying. Your child learns from watching you. So, if you show him assertiveness about your needs and rights while respecting others, your child will copy this model.
3. Teach your child the dynamics of bullying. Don’t wait until your child gets bullied to explain how it starts and develops over time. Bullying often starts with verbal harassment. The way the potential victim responds the first time determines if the bullying will continue or not. If the verbal aggression gives a feeling of power to the perpetrator, then usually the bullying escalates.
4. Role play with your child so that he knows how to respond effectively to bullying. Since the bully wants a feeling of power, showing emotion or fighting back are exactly what the bully is looking for. Instead, role play situations in which your child does not attack or demean the perpetrator. For instance, your child may say “You know, I am just going to ignore that comment.” or “I think I have something else to do right now.” or “I want you to leave me alone.” Using “I” statements is empowering.
While bullying can be extremely painful and detrimental to any child, there are ways to empower your child. It is never too early to start to educate and teach your child about them.
CALMING YOUR ANGRY CHILD (2)
When a child has anger issues, it means he is terrified by his locked feelings under his anger (fear, hurt, grief, …) and does not know how to handle them. Your child feels then deeply vulnerable and uses anger as a defense. In reality, he cries for help. As a parent, your role is to help him learn how to recognize, accept, and express appropriately his uncomfortable and threatening feelings.
In my last blog, I gave a few tips about how handling your child’s anger. Here are a few more:
1. Restoring safety. When your child feels angry or upset, he actually needs to restore safety. Sending him away in his room will not help him as he does not know what to do with his scary feelings. Instead, stay with him and help him move through his feelings. It does not mean that you allow destructive actions. Set limits while acknowledging his anger “You can be mad as much as you need, but you don’t hit me/us. Use your words to tell me how angry you are.” If you child needs to express physically his anger, give him options such as punching a pillow or a bag.
2. Help your child understand his underlying emotions beneath anger. When your child is allowed to experience the whole range of feelings, he will not need anger to defend against his more vulnerable feelings. For instance, your child should experience grief when his toy gets broken, his hurt that his mother was unfair, his shame he did not know the answer when his teacher asked him, or his fear when his classmates threatened him. When all these feelings are accepted and validated by his parents, the child understands that all emotions are welcome and safe. Thus, he can feel his emotions safely, but not necessarily act on them.
3. Restore connection. Give your child the message that you understand him and that you are here to help him. Acknowledge it by saying it to him. For instance “You are so angry that your toy is broken.” Then, allow him to express his feeling “Everyone gets mad when something they like gets broken. I will stay with you until you feel better.” If your child is mad at you, acknowledge his feeling, but manage to stay close to him. “I hear that you want me to go away. I will step back a little bit, but I will not leave you alone with these big feelings. I will stay with you until you feel better. Let me know when it is the case.”
Obviously, it takes years of parental guidance for your child to learn these skills. Once you are able to help your child feels safe enough to express his anger and explore the feelings underneath, then your child will be able to increasingly move past his anger.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.