Parenting Tips

Bullying: Encouraging Children to Stand Up For Themselves

Bullying seems to becoming more and more of a problem. Here are several tips on how you can help your child stand up for themselves.

by Jennifer Shakeel

school bullyRecently I was speaking with a family friend, whose daughter is one of the cheerleaders for my son’s football team. Her daughter is having a rough time with another little girl on the team who seems determined to make my friend’s daughters life miserable. There has yet to be one game all season long that she has not left the game crying. The little girl picks on her at school as well. I have been trying to offer ideas to my friend to help her daughter. I have even talked to her daughter.

It isn’t that her daughter is weak, or a push over… she is just a nice person. Her parents have done an excellent job on raising her and teaching her that it is better to take the high road. That just because someone is being nasty to you does not mean that you need to be nasty back to them. I completely agree with this, we have done the same with our children. Though we have also tried to instill upon them that taking the high road does not mean that you become someone’s doormat. Today I am offering several parenting tips on how you can help your child stand up for themselves.

Parenting Tip One:  Return an Insult with a Compliment

Granted this is going to depend on the situation. In the case of my friend’s daughter it is just a taunting little girl and they are 11 years old. It is important to realize that the bully in this case gets satisfaction over making the “victim” feel terrible. They want to see the person they are tormenting upset, for them it is a matter of putting that person in their place which is beneath the bully. To which I advised that she look at this other little girl when she is being mean and say, “You’re the best xxxx,” with a smile and turn and walk away. Don’t give the tormentor the satisfaction of making you feel like crap, let them know that what they are saying doesn’t bother you.

Parenting Tip Two:  Call the Bully Out

Sometimes taking the high road is not about not succumbing to being nasty, it is about calling the bully out for what they are doing. For the daughter of our friend, I advised that she look at her “team mate” and say, “I thought we were a team. Teammates support each other. We don’t have to like each other, but we do need to support one another.” Many times, especially with younger kids, the fact that the bully has never been called on the carpet for their behavior encourages the behavior. So when one person stands up to them and points out what they are doing is wrong it will stop the bullying.

Parenting Tip Three:  Allow Your Children to Express Their Feelings at Home

When a child knows that they can express themselves in the comfort and safety of their own home without repercussions they are more inclined to express themselves outside of the home. But they first have to learn how. Home should be the safe haven for freedom of expression. This will also give you the opportunity to teach them the proper way to say what they are feeling.

Parenting Tip Four:  Let them Know They Should Never Tolerate Being Made to Feel Uncomfortable

For children in grades kindergarten through third grade teaching them to say, “I don’t like what you did, please don’t do it again.” Can be very beneficial because this is when children are learning socialization skills and working on perfecting what it is they know. Often doing role playing games at home can help teach your child what is uncomfortable to them, but how to address it when it happens. In our home I was, and still am, very protective of my children. And my biggest fear is someone trying to do something to them… or force them to do something by telling them that it is okay, that is what love is, or if they don’t do it then their family is going to get hurt. We are very big on the good touch, bad touch issues as well. Our children know that no one is going to hurt us, regardless of what is told to them… that they can tell us anything… and that is something like this happens it is not their fault.

Kids need to know that. They need to hear you say it, over and over again. They need to know that you say it is okay for them to speak their mind and the they should tell you if something happens. NEVER assume they know that if you don’t tell them.

Parenting Tip Five:  Get Involved

There are times when bullying gets to the point that adults need to intervene. In the case of our family friend the mom has gone to the head of the cheer-leading organization. She was told that if the coach observed that behavior the coach is to address it and give a demerit, or bench the young lady. The coach is the mom of this little girl that is doing the bullying. So what is the parent to do? I believe that there are times when you have to global parent, and you have to do it so the parent of the other child hears and sees it. This doesn’t mean that you yell at a child, or paddle them or anything like that. It means that as a parent you step in when you see this behavior and you say, “This is not how we treat one another and I am sure that your mom/dad/parents have taught you better than that.” What is the other parent going to say?

Our friend has not done this because the coach then takes it out on our friend’s daughter.

Parenting Tip Six: Get Your Child Involved in Sports or Clubs

Granted in the situation that that inspired this article, team activities are the cause of the problem. But that is not normally the case. Getting them involved in activities that teach them self defense such as martial arts, kickboxing, speech and debate, junior Optimists and the like will surround them with other kids that building their character and working to learn how to “defend” themselves.

Parenting Tip Seven: Let Them Defend Themselves

Ok, I am not an advocate for violence, please understand that. But there are times when (with older children) that what a bully needs is to get back what it is they are dishing out. This will do a couple of things, it lets the bully know that they cannot push your child around anymore because your child is no longer afraid and it let’s your child know that sometimes you have to play on a level playing ground where all things are equal. Our children have been taught that it is never okay to start a fight, they are never to throw the first punch… but they are do defend themselves.

The fact is you can’t always walk away. There are times that you either have to suck it up and take it or stand up and defend yourself. There are people that don’t learn this until they are adults, there are some that never learn it all. Teach your child now that they can defend themselves when a situation calls for it. That taking the high road does not mean being a doormat.

Jennifer Shakeel is a writer and former nurse. As a mother of two incredible children, I am here to share with you what I have learned about parenting. One of my children has ADD, our journey of learning to come to terms with the diagnosis and figuring out what works best for us has been a challenge and a joy. Our son was diagnosed about two and half years ago, and we have had our ups and downs, joys and sorrows. If I can just offer you one day of hope or one idea that may work to help you and your family then I know that my purpose has been fulfilled.

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