Some of the many questions parents have about children and bullying includes questions like “shouldn’t the schools be doing more?” or “why must my child learn the skills and just accept that it’s the bully with the issues?” or “what do I do if I suspect my child is perhaps the bully or is being bullied but he or she won’t talk to me?”
Now it is obviously important to first and foremost distinguish the difference between a bully and a rude or ill-mannered child. If another child says something mean to your child, it is not necessarily bullying. It is just a rude child who has no manners- period. It becomes bullying when this other child comes back the next day, and the next day, and continues with these words that turn into teasing. Now this child’s actions are intentional and this child is practicing some sort of power over your child. This is the very definition of bullying: ongoing intentional misuse of power in relationships intended to cause physical, social/psychological, and emotional harm. In saying this, when your child complains about another child or incident at school, don’t go in, guns blazing like Terminator all ready for action. Speak to your child first. Try and determine whether your child literally just experienced a negative incident with another child, or is this persistent, is your child being harmed, and is this the fourth time your child is complaining about this other child? If so, then you can explore the situation further.
Rest assured knowing that you as a parent are never too protective over your child, especially when it comes to their well-being. Many parents are inclined to immediately go running to the schools and the bully’s parents with a mission. This is normal. You are doing your job to want to protect your child, and it is especially a normal reaction given all the stories we hear of more and more each and every day regarding bullying and what it can lead to if left unattended. Before you go running in though, just wait, speak to your child first, and see what exactly is going on.
Nevertheless, whether your child is being bullied or if they are dealing with a one-time incident with a rude and ill-mannered child, the situation still has the potential to make your child feel worthless, as if they deserved it. It can still mess up their day and their own picture of themselves. So it is important to make sure your child also understands the difference between a bully and a rude child, and it is also important for them to have the necessary skills in order to safeguard themselves against the potential effects of the situation.
These types of situations don’t go away as you get older. Let’s face it, everyone reading right now is able to think of at least one bully or ill-mannered person in their life. Growing up does not come with these headlines saying “welcome to level two where the difficult people have now disappeared.” Any higher level in a game gets more complicated. Thus, if your child has the skills to safeguard themselves against these difficult children now already, then they will be able to conquer the upcoming levels of life with ease.
Apparently, this girl (yes this is me aged 10) was fat and needed liposuction and slimming products. This is what many pupils said to me throughout primary school. Going into high school with this image of myself, it quite explains the choices I made. If I knew then what I know now, I would be proud of the happy and healthy child that I was.
As a Kids Life Coach, I coach children with practical skills to use against the bullies. Children are coached to understand that a bully is just someone who is struggling with their own fears and insecurities inside. They have no power and feel a loss of control somewhere in their own life so they need a target to use and abuse just to help themselves feel better. Now of course it is not just your child who must learn the necessary skills. I am also not saying they must just accept the behaviour and insecurities from the bully. It is not about accepting it, rather, it is about understanding it and knowing how to deal with it especially when no one else is around like a parent or teacher. Unfortunately, this is when most bullying takes place anyway. It is just as important for the bully to understand what they are going through, and it is important for them to develop the correct social and emotional skills- they get coached too. They are also just children facing their own giants without any knowledge or training for the battle. Regardless, in that moment when your child is being bullied, there is no time to sit and play the blame game with comments like “yes but what are the parents of that child doing?” or “no wonder this child is a bully, or this child this and this child that.” In the moment your child is being bullied, that is the time your child can say “you know what, I have no control over what this bully chooses to do or say. I have no control over their experiences at home and what may be the reason for their bullying. Luckily, I at least have all the control over my thoughts, my behaviour, and my attitude. So let’s tackle this.”
I would like to add here that it is true that the schools should be doing something more by putting things in place to prevent the effects of bullying. If you ask me, I think coaching kids should be compulsory in schools so that all children get to learn the skills and know-how of how to deal with bullies, and how to deal with the situations that may be causing them to bully. You see, there are different role players when it comes to the prevention of bullying and that includes parents, teachers, schools, children, and bystanders. Yet at the end of the day, if your child is a target and no one is around, what then? What do they do? If they can’t call a teacher, if they can’t phone a friend, if they can’t rely on the audience, can they choose the correct answer on their own?
So how exactly does your child tackle this bully? Well this is a topic with many branches and we could be going on for days and days. There are different circumstances and different outcomes. The main foundation I stick to in my coaching practice with children, teens, and young students is first and foremost, confidence.
Confidence is the most important factor- knowing and believing in your own worth. Throughout the sessions, the children and I work on ways to show confidence even when they may feel so small against the bully. I coach children to have this picture of a shield which protects them from the things out there trying to corrupt their thoughts and attack their worth. This shield is made up of all the things that contribute to their own confidence so this looks different for every child. This also ties in with assertiveness– knowing how to communicate in a way that people will listen to you. So you aren’t just going to say “stop it! stop it! stop it!”. Let’s get real, that is helping no one. This may seem like your child is standing up to the bully, but actually the bully is getting so much satisfaction from it because this bully can see he or she is busy annoying your child and this is what they want. They want your child to react with anger, irritation, and hurt. That is what gives them more power, or at least the feeling thereof. I’ll take you back to the game analogy. Picture two people fighting in a game and you have the bars of health hovering over each player’s head. The more your child allows the bully to get into their thoughts and attack their worth, the quicker their health bar goes down. The other player – the bully – his or her bar just stays green and full. In order to get that bully’s bar to go from green, to orange, to red, to ‘Game Over’, your child can stand up for themselves in a more effective way- with assertive communication and confidence. The bully might think they are in this battle for power but your child knows that they actually have all the power within themselves.
Your child might still come home even after successfully handling the situation, and they may burst into tears or show irritation or lash out at home. This can also just be their way of venting. Parents, this is okay. It does not mean they are still struggling to stand up against the bully. Think about your way of getting rid of a lot of overwhelming feelings. Are you so joyful after dealing with your inconsiderate boss? Are you smiling from ear to ear after getting in a fight with your partner? No. When I am angry and I come out of a difficult confrontation, I cry. I cry like a baby and I let it all out. Whichever way your child chooses to ‘get it all out’ and empty out the feelings from the situation, assure them that it is okay to feel the way that they are feeling and they can have their moment. You are there when they are ready to talk about it. Then when they tell you what happened, you give them one big high five and hug and say “well done.” Don’t immediately say “that’s it, I am going to the school first thing tomorrow and I am going to give them a piece of my mind! They will not upset my child like this.” This may be the very last thing your child wants and eventually they are going to stop sharing things with you. As I said, first speak to your child and then determine if the situation needs your attention or not. If your child is physically harmed and things are really getting out of control then for sure, there is always a time and place for parents to step in and also say “enough is enough now!” But just first see whether that is the case or not.
With regards to your child speaking to you about things, make sure they have at least one person they trust and are comfortable speaking to. Moms of teenage boys, sometimes that might not be you, and that is okay. At the end of the day your child needs a friend, a family member, a teacher, a ‘someone’ whom they trust and will talk to. This ensures that your child does not bottle things up and let the negative effects of bullying fester inside. It also ensures that someone else is aware of the situation and action can be taken if things get worse. When your child does choose to open up, sit back and just listen. Don’t come with a response of “that’s just girls being catty”, or “boys will be boys.” Find out what happened next, what they did, what they might do next time, what the consequence or outcome of this will be etc. Just encourage a solution focussed mindset. Don’t downplay the situation and don’t give the situation extra fuel. In my coaching practice children learn to train their brain to focus on a solution. They learn to acknowledge the situation which they are in and then decide on the best way forward.
My special interest in bullying really stems from my own experiences. I have had my fair share of bullying and in all honesty, looking back, I could have handled things so much better. If I knew how to tackle the bullies, even the adult bullies I faced, I would not have felt so lonely, so powerless, struggled with confidence, struggled with boundaries because I was seeking acceptance, the list goes on. As an adult today, can you think back to a situation that happened in your childhood and how that had an impact on your choices, or personality and things you do today? Now this is what fuels my motivation to coach children. I don’t want them looking back on life, like we are now, thinking “if only I did this, or changed that, or tried that, I wonder how things would have been, I wonder if that would have turned out differently and given me a different opportunity?” We don’t want this for our kids. We want our kids to believe in their own strengths and have the confidence to use this against people who try and bring them down. They can start seeing this bully as just another level in the game of life, and because they have the skills to deal with it, they can overcome it and become stronger and stronger as they move forward.
If you want your child to know how to empower themselves and how to conquer the various levels of life, get in touch and enrol your child in a coaching programme. It is tailor-made to suit the specific needs of your child. Parents, you don’t have to tackle this alone. You have support to take that weight off of your shoulders. Your child has so much strength and my aim is to coach them to see this and use this.
Kids Life Coach
Play Well Live Well Kids Life Studio®