Bullies are difficult to deal with. Even as an adult we can have “bullies” in our lives. They may be even harder to deal with as adults if we haven’t had the skills to deal with them as a child.
Research shows that being bullied can lead to extreme retaliation (as we have seen in the news). Three out of four students say they have been bullied. Fifty-nine percent say they have bullied.
My oldest son has had some bullies cause him pain (more mentally than physically but hurtful none the less). We have found three items very important in helping a child deal with bullies is:
- Keep communication open (both at home and where it is occurring)
- Teach and live confidence
- Help them learn/improve social skills
In no way does a child deserve it, but it is a reality and this is what has helped us.
Keeping Communication Open – Make sure you go past the “How was your day?” “Fine” answers. It’s hard but be persistent especially if there has been changes to friends, happiness, aggressiveness, and/or any extreme changes. Help your child learn the difference between teasing and bullying. Questions like “Can you tell me what you think the child’s intentions were?” or “Does it stop when you get upset?” etc. Also, keep the communication open at school (or any other location this is happening) is crucial. You may need to volunteer on the playground, work with the school to bring in professionals that present Bully programs to school. The school needs to take this serious and if they don’t you may need to ask if this is the best place for you child (Are they safe?). Finally, make sure the child knows it’s ok to tell an adult what is happening.
Teach and Live Confidence – If we do not live out confidence it will be much harder for our children to learn it. This is something you have to see to know. If you don’t feel confident, work on yours as confidence is very attractive. People gravitate toward people who know what they are doing. I am always reminded of a boy I knew who wasn’t what some may call attractive, and he wore strange clothes, but people were drawn to him. Some people might believe he was born with this, but I really believe he grew up learning and seeing confidence displayed, and boy did people want to be around him. Have your child practice speaking up for themselves with opinions at home. Encourage the activities they like and they feel successful at. Do mock bullying at home and practice what they can do, say, stand, look, etc when they are in that situation.
Help Them Learn/Improve Social Skills – Children who have a close group of friends are less likely to get bullied. The strength in numbers philosophy I guess. Here again you can practice these skills at home, with a sibling, yourself, a stuffed animal, or whatever works) by introducing themselves, things to talk about, etc. Have friends over or make play-dates! After your child has done a sport or activity have them meet with the kids afterwards as they don’t socialize very much during the actual activity. Teach them how to initiate a conversation, laugh at themselves, and notice things about other people. Talk to them about what a true friend is and isn’t so they don’t just fall into the wanting to be with the cool kids group just because. Encourage them to make new friends as the song goes “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold”. And get to know your child’s friend’s (and their parents). Yes, they may need a parent to help them navigate around people that are good for them and people that are not!
- The Friendship Factorby Kenneth Rubin Ph.D and Andrea Thompson
- Raising Courageous Kids by Charles A. Smith
- US Department of Education
- King of the Playground by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
If your child is the culprit, you will want to look at where the aggression is coming from, how often, what the school (coach, etc) can do, and help them with all the items above as a bully is not happy with who they are. They also need social skills and confidence building. You may also have to decide if counseling would be appropriate.
Make no mistake bullying happens as a child and as an adult. Learning the skills to deal with people with this aggression can be useful now and in the future.
Disclaimer- I have no training in counseling and this in no way should replace professional help. This is just coming from one Mom to another.