What to tell your child about bullies?
Telling Your Child About Bullies... What Do They Need To Know?
Bullying is a topic no parent wants to discuss with their child out of necessity. Unfortunately 1 in 4 students are bullied every week and this makes the odds of your child being a victim more of a reality.
Whether your child is being bullied emotionally or physically at school, in the playground or through cyber devices, chances are you don’t know about it until much later. Children think they can handle it, that it will pass and for some does, but for others it is only the beginning. By educating our children about bullies we are giving them a fighting chance.
Does your child really need to know about bullying?
I am the first person to say that I want my children to stay innocent and naïve to the cruel world but in this day and age it is unrealistic. Thanks to digital devices, the horrific events happening around the world and schools being too scared to discipline children, this just isn’t going to happen. They see negative situations everywhere and I feel it is my job as their parent to educate them about the dangers, just in case.
Yes this may sound drastic and very pessimistic but past experiences have taught me that preparation is the key to survival. My boys have been bullied and it has been torture to see their once very happy demeanour slowly have the joy sucked out of it. Our most recent bullying experience happened just a few weeks ago and my 9 year old son stood up to his bully and got suspended, you can read about his bullying incident here. Even though he was suspended, it was a massive win for his confidence and a big shock to his tormentor.
What should you teach your child about bullying?
This is the million dollar question and of course for every family it will be different but here are some ideas to get you started.
· Why do bullies bully? There are so many answers to this but the main ones include:
- The bully may have a difficult home life. This in no way makes it ok but often results in them trying to bring down other kids who ‘appear’ to have it easy.
- They may feel lonely and think that by instilling fear in others it will gain them friends.
- Sometimes they just want to hurt others.
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None of these are situations are good but it may help your child to understand that they are not being bullied because of anything they did. Often they have just been singled out.
Try these tactics as a way of dealing with bullying circumstances:
· Way with words - some children are able to talk their way out of bullying situations. Bullies don’t expect their victims to talk back so it often throws them when they are spoken to but in a way that your child is not directly on the defence. This is what intimidators expect.
- Try the following:
- Laugh off mean comments
- ‘Is that the best you’ve got?’
- Ask them if they feel better after getting that off their chest.
· Walk away – more often than not we teach our child to walk away. This is the right action in many cases, particularly if your child’s safety is feeling threatened. On the other hand, sometimes standing up tall and not showing weakness will achieve more.
· Be strong – I’m not talking physically. I mean when a bully is breaking down that confidence one attack at a time, do not let them see weakness. Do not let them see your child is hurt and upset. This is a bully’s ammunition and they will thrive on knowing they have made such a negative impression.
· Talk to someone – Whether this is a parent, teacher or guidance counsellor; children need to be able to talk about their emotions. Particularly as they start getting older and having hormone changes. My son’s principle explained it in an interesting but easy to understand way; your emotions are like a water bottle. Each time something annoys, upsets or hurts you and you don’t talk about it, you are adding a little bit more water into the bottle until it reaches maximum capacity and it explodes out the top. Talking gives your child a chance to let it out and it allows teachers to be more vigilant of the situation (hopefully act on it before it causes irreparable psychological damage).
· Power in numbers – Bullies tend to prey on those that are alone. Typically for a number of reasons; if you are alone you have no back up, no support. It also means there are no witnesses if they do decide to attack you. If and when possible, travel in groups around the school or stick to areas such as the library where this type of behaviour will not go unnoticed.
One of the most important things your child needs to know is that no matter what their bully does, it is not their fault. No one deserves to bullied, no one deserves to be intimidated and no one deserves to suffer violent acts from another person, regardless of age!
Knowing that your child is being bullied is painful. You want to make the pain go away, you want to put a stop to it for them but unfortunately this is rarely an option. Arming them with the tools they need to make a difference in their own wellbeing and confidence will help them overcome this difficult time. Unfortunately it occurs far more we would like to think and sometimes bullies are much more aggressive, in this case your child needs to seek immediate help with teachers and parents.
Has your child dealt with bullies? What other tips and advice can you offer other parents?