Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What can I do if my child is being bullied? Part 2- What not to do

HumpDay Dilemma

Hearing about or watching your children be bullied is one of the most helpless feelings you can have as a parent. For me it brings up memories of my own childhood and the frequent teasing I received.  It is natural as a parent to want to intervene and fix the problem.  You might even feel like a bad parent if you don’t do something to help.

It can be very hard to not act on this impulse to make things better however it is almost always the wrong move to make. 
    1.   Parental involvement rarely does anything to fix the twisted relationship of the bully and the bullied.  In fact it often times makes things much worse.
    2.  Intervening by talking to the bully yourself or even to the bully’s parent seems like a good idea.  However, it really only makes the bully change tactics.  Bullying continues, goes further under adult radar and will often go to another level.  So verbal teasing can quickly become physical because now there is no one around (or at least no adults around) to see it being done. 

    3.  When parents attempt to fix their children’s bully issue, it does not help the children to learn to work through their problems.  They become reliant on adult involvement to fix issues they have.  They are unable to stand up for themselves.  Intervening tells your children that they cannot handle problems they have and that they will always needs your help.  Allowing your children to attempt to work through their own problems, even big ones like bullying, will empower your children and build their self-worth.  

    4.  Although we all want to know what our children are doing at every moment of their lives, part of our job as parents is to give them independence a little bit at a time.  This is why I suggest you  avoid pressing your children with questions about what they are doing and who they are with.  Again, this can seem counterproductive because teens are not known for their “chattiness.”  I am always in favor of being involved in your children’s lives and asking questions.  But there is a not-so-fine line between being interested and even concerned about what someone you love is doing and hounding or nagging them.   

a. Loving concern does not JUST ask questions, it is interested in what is said and listens attentively.

b. It acts and responds in a respectful tone.

c. It means that you respect your children’s opinion even if you KNOW it is wrong.

d. You do not try to draw your own conclusions about what is said. 

e. Ask questions that do not share your opinion: 
               Tell me about that.   
               What happened after that?   
               How did that make you feel?  
               Why was that so hurtful?  
               What do you feel like doing about it?  
               How did others respond?   
               How did you respond?

    5.  Before responding, ask your children if they want feedback. This is really important.  Sometimes all our children need is a sounding board or a safe person to get the frustration and hurt of being bullied off their chests, too.  They often come to us as a shoulder to cry on, and we turn it into another stress on their life.  Don’t be too quick to tell them what to do.  Make sure that is really why they are coming to you before you go into “repair” mode.    

Next week I am going to give you some tips and tools to listen more effectively and to enable you to help your children’s emotions heal from anything but especially the trauma of bullying. 

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