As a practitioner of Reality Therapy I help people face the “hard truths” about life.
Working together through counselling we find ways to cope with such “realities” and I take great pleasure watching clients take steps towards a happier life.
Being a parent of three children myself I struggle with certain realities on a daily basis…
One such “hard truth” is that at some point, each of my children will be:
- Picked on or
- Will have their feelings hurt
Bullying behaviors are unfortunately part of the countless ways we use “external control” in our attempt to control others. Last year I wrote a post exploring the underlying aspects of bullying through the lens of Choice Theory. As all our behavior is always our best attempt to satisfy one or more of our 5 basic human needs, bullying is often done in our attempt to;
- Connect with others (not those we are bullying) (Love and Belonging) OR,
- Achieve power or higher social status (Power or recognition)
In many cases It is our children’s friends who are the first to know when it is happening. When our children don’t communicate with adults within the school or inform us what is happening their friends become the first line of defence.
I shared some ways friends can help, hoping that teens can read my blog and become more confident they can do a great deal to help.
Since my own children are reaching the age where these issues are prevalent it has come to mind to revisit the important topic of bullying.
I wanted to take it a bit further by giving parents some concrete ways they can get involved proactively to help their child.
Below are 9 ways that you as a parent can get involved in actions that will help empower your child to handle these behaviors in a healthy and positive manner;
- We have 2 ears and 1 mouth
We need to be great listeners. This 2:1 ear to mouth ratio is exactly what I suggest when it comes to dealing with the moment when our child begins to tell us he or she is experiencing bullying.
Our instinct when we hear such news may be to react and become emotional. This will only shut them up quickly!
Take a breath, bite your tongue if necessary…and “take the cotton out of your ears and shove it in your mouth”. An expression I have been told myself when I was younger!!
As challenging as it may be, listen in a neutral way. Sometimes in doing so our children begin to listen to themselves as well. They begin to think of how they might deal with the situation in a positive way. Listening will help them feel respected and valued.
Asking them “what can I do to be helpful?” is a great place to start when you open your mouth. They may in fact just want to be truly heard and have the chance to think about what to do.
The ultimate goal is that he or she continues to communicate whats going on.
- It’s not your story….don’t make them relive it
It is very possible that you may have experienced your own painful bout of bullying when in school.
Hearing news from your child could kick up a lot of old feelings and memories. Be careful not to put this on them.
Sharing your experiences and how you felt going through them can be extremely helpful to your child. If you can remember what helped you at the time and what didn’t, you can use such knowledge now to help them through it.
- Save revenge for the action movies
I always enjoy a good action film! A character is wronged and seeks out justice. In the movies this somehow works out well for all those involved.
Happy ending…right?!? Wrong!
In the real world, seeking such “justice” often can be more about seeking revenge. We get caught up in the idea that if our child is hurting so will they! I want them to feel how my child feels.
Does this really help our child? Does it even help us in the end? No.
What we need to focus on is how we can help them, not hurt someone else.
- Behaviors are skills…be a good coach
All behaviors are learned. When we consider ourselves “skilled” at any such behavior we arrive at such a level because of daily practice.
Helping our child is much like being a coach. Come up with ways they can see handling bullying as practicing different skills. From facial gestures to saying assertive statements, it’s all skills that can be learned and practiced.
Practice with them at home. Role play and give them the chance to rehearse in a safe and secure place. At first they will find this really silly OR be embarrassed. You both might be! Don’t give up.
If they can start practicing at home they can begin practicing at school and take some important steps to becoming “skilled” at handling difficult people. NOt a bad skill to have growing up!! Right?!?
- Find someone at school you trust
Having a person that sees your child every day is necessary for bridging the communication and helping to create the support network your child needs.
This can be a teacher, mentor, administration, the janitor for all I care!!
The key is that you trust that they truly care about your child and are invested in keeping them safe and healthy. Talk with them as much as needed while you all work towards resolving the issue(s).
- Your child needs you on their side
It can be frustrating when our child is on the other side of bullying behaviors. It can even become possible to blame your child for the bullying behavior.
This may sound horrible to some of you out there….but it is true.
We can have a perspective of our child that others do not share. We might see them in a certain way that suggests they aren’t assertive, or are behaving “weak” or “asking for it”.
I implore you to reconsider. To understand that although they may in fact be making some choices that aren’t effective, they are doing the very best they can in that moment. They are not to blame. Bullying happens to all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. It is helpful to help your child feel you are on their side. You want to help them find ways to handle the issue.
- You need support too!
I always like to remind parents what they are instructed on the airplane regarding the air masks. Who do you help first?!? Yes….that’s right, yourself.
As parents, we are often putting ourselves last on the list of people needing support. “I will get help after I know my child is safe and doing ok!!”, we might say.
It is a lot to be going through when our child is experiencing bullying. Reach out to friends, family, and someone that you can talk to. By doing this you will be much more equipped to listen and handle the issue with better judgement and energy.
- Help your child label whats happening
This is especially important for younger children. Helping them put what’s happening into clear and concise language is both empowering and helps truly confront the issue.
“_______ is bullying me”………. rather than……… “_______ is teasing me”.
Helping your child understand the difference between bullying and teasing and other words that don’t seem to carry much weight can help them get teachers and staff’s attention at school.
- Become a pro at finding what your child is good at
When your child is going through difficult experiences they can begin to see themselves and life in general in a real negative way.
Helping them connect with the things they are good at and enjoy can be the very thing they need at that time to help boost them up.
By focusing your attention on them and what they are good at you might in fact encourage them to do the same.
I hope that you find these 9 ways both helpful and doable. I think that it takes a community to address such behaviors as bullying.
I am here and available to help you parents…