Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What can I do if my child is being bullied? Part 3- What you SHOULD do.

HumpDay Dilemma

I said last week that you should not intervene and try to fix your child’s bullying problem;  however that does not mean that you don’t give assistance to them.  Today I am going to give you some tips on guiding your children through this emotional and sometimes devastating life lesson. 

First, you work to have an open and honest relationship with your children in every area of their lives.  Check out a few of my other posts; Does praise form high self-esteem, Praise, it’s complicated and Teenagers, gratitude and peer pressure.  

·   Don’t expect too much
    When children are bullied, often times they do not want to talk about it.  What they really want to do is forget about it.  Coupled with the fact that your children might be embarrassed about the teasing received and you will likely find they do not want to talk about it right away.  Let your children know you are ready to listen when they want to talk.  

·   Listen before you speak 
    As I said last week if your children come to you to talk about being bullied, do your best to simply listen without immediately rushing to fixing the problem.  Let them tell you the story and how they feel about it before sharing your opinion.  
    Ask the right questions 
    Ask them questions about the situation that will help them draw their own conclusions.  Start with what you notice and then form the next question from there.  I gave a few general questions last week.  Here are a few more examples.
  • I noticed you did not want to play outside this week.  Did something happen that has you concerned?
  • You have been asking me for a ride to school every day this week.  Did something happen on the bus that makes you not want to ride it?
  • You used to really enjoy gym class.  Is there a reason for this change?
·   Your child did nothing wrong 
    Do not imply that they did something to deserve the bulling or that they reacted in the incorrectly.  If you say things like “What did you do?” or “Why did you do that?” your children might assume they are being judged for the event just as much as the other child. 
    Validate your children’s emotions 
    Validate the feelings of worry your children might have and the concern that it will likely happen again.  “It seems like you are concerned this child might do it again.”  Or “It is never nice to excluded from fun things your friends are doing.”  

·   Encourage your children to come up some ideas
    There is a good chance your children already have a few ideas about how they would like to handle the situation.  Ask them to share these with you. 

·   Ask if feedback is desired
    Before sharing your opinion or giving any suggestions, ask your children if they want help.  
    Find the positive 
    Help your children find something positive from the situation. 
    Do your own investigation 
    If your children are not being communicative and you suspect more is going on, you might want to ask a few of his friends or teachers if they have noticed anything going on.  This could be looked at as an invasion of privacy by your children so it is really best to let them know you are doing it before you start.  Asking their permission just might be helping your children to be more open about what is going on, but be careful to not to turn this into a threats.  You are not threatening to go to their teachers if they don’t talk.  You are simply really concerned and want to help.  

·   Don’t worry if you have done things wrong in the past.  Communicate your own mistakes to your children, letting them know that you are still concerned, but you want to build the kind of relationship where they can feel comfortable sharing details without being badgered by you. 

Bullying is a cyclical problem.  Children that bully others are being bullied by someone.  Sometimes it is older siblings, other friends and even their parents.  Bullying keeps happening because it keeps working. A child is bullied, the bully gets what he or she wants (attention, power, etc) and is then encouraged to do it again.  

Stopping the cycle is very difficult but it is possible.  For bullying to stop,  people need to do one of two things.  The first is to ignore the behavior.  A bully will very likely give up when he or she is not getting the expected reaction.  The second is that someone not currently being bullied needs to stand up to the bully.  Bullies prey on people that seem weak and alone.  When someone stands up for the weaker person, they no longer look like such an easy target. 

Bullies are usually insecure themselves. The best advice you can give your children when they are being bullied is to see the bully for what he or she really is: someone that is being pushed around by a stronger person and has chosen to turn it around and push around someone else weaker.  Encourage your child to stop this cycle and instead ignore the teasing and find a way to love or at least like the bully.  It is not easy and it may not immediately stop the bullying.  However, it changes the dynamic of the relationship and therefore changes everything.  

Part 1
Part 2

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