Most of us are in agreement that we don’t want our kids to bully or be bullied. Bullying can be deadly and sadly we hear more and more stories about this all the time.
If the school your child is at doesn’t have a very clear stance on managing bullying, then that needs to be addressed immediately. However, whilst most schools profess to this on paper, often they are not helpful in practice. I feel this has a lot to do with the punitive nature of school systems often being counter-productive to the cause and also the fact that bullying also needs to be addressed at home as well.
I don’t believe bullies are born. I believe all children display off-track behaviour to send out a warning signal or an SOS and this is an important thing to relate to our children. Bullies have an unmet need that they are not coping with. It can be anything and that’s where I think schools/parents need to provide support to bullies to ascertain what is underlying the behaviour and also intercept. This should be done AFTER the victim has been empathised with and their needs have been seen to and never at the cost of the victim.
I think another important and overlooked issue is that some of this stuff starts “innocently” within the home. Casual racism, off-colour jokes, homophobia, body-shaming, ableism and sexism can skew children’s views of other people and their societal roles.
The more I dive into empathy, the more I realise how broadly it has to apply and how a lot of the stuff we consume (particularly on television) presents terrible role models and morals. More often than not our protagonist hero is a criminal/narcissist/socio or psychopath and we root for these people as per the storyline. I’m not the fun police! I have binge-watched my fair share of the aforementioned shows. I don’t have a problem with that. I just think we all need to be conscious to make sure that what we consume is not consuming us and we need to be able to separate our own values from fictional ones or that of other people. We need to make empathy our True North and model and display that to our children.
It helps to make sure our children are very clear on what to do when being bullied and there is some great preventative and in-the-moment advice HERE. We need to model good relationships, respectful behaviour, teach them “If you see something, SAY something!” and keep discussing and reading literature such as these listed by A Mighty Girl (not just for girls) and expose your children to diversity with real-life experiences and books like these.
We need to be on top of our children’s use of the internet and devices. More on this here.
I also highly recommend daily tools such as these of Hand In Hand Parenting (which include Special Time) to fortify our children and help them be resilient when faced with challenges. They also help make sure our children value, trust and believe in our connection to them. There is nothing more important than keeping open lines of communication between parent and child.
If your child is the one doing the bullying, try to stay calm and remember what that means. They are signalling for help and you need to answer that call. Talk to them, find out what they need, get counselling for them if necessary and keep checking in with yourself.
I think it’s also really important we do start to embody empathy and realise that that applies to EVERYONE. We don’t have to agree with everyone but if we start seeing their plight it makes us better people and better parents. This is timely for me as I read stories of teen suicide pacts and kids taking their life due to not being accepted for who they are. This is getting worse as things escalate around the world. Please ally with your children to become Peaceful Warriors so we can hope for a much more harmonious future!
Remember that I am here for you on this parenting journey, no matter how raw and real it gets so please don’t hesitate to JustAsk!