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.
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.