Providing Your Child with the Tools to Overcome Bullying
It is No Longer a Generation that Can Always, ‘Handle it Themselves’
Bullying is a psychological game kids, and sadly, some adults play on one another to make them feel better about themselves in a twisted way. To say we are going to stop bullying all together, realistically is not going to happen. We are dealing with a generation armed with the latest abilities to squash another person’s reputation and in some situations push them to their breaking point. Bullying has been in the headlines as often as other crimes, and it is heartbreaking. We have all known or heard of someone who has committed suicide or been killed but to think that it has happened by the words or hands of another child? It is time to step in and protect our children!
You are probably wondering a few things right now, “Is this writer a doctor or I bet this is one of those people who have no idea what they are talking about.” The answer is, I am not a doctor, but I am a mother of four, and I write from firsthand experience. Please do not think I am one of those parents who preach as if I know everything because I don’t. As a parent we learn every day the mistakes, we make, the things we could do better, and the crushing blow when you find your child is being bullied.
My younger children attend a great school known for its academic achievements. The staff is great, and it is small enough that most everyone knows all the children. The type of school that does ice cream socials, book fairs, and goes above and beyond to help families through some hard times. They offer programs for the children without complaining about the expense. So why are children at this school being bullied? As children become teens, they begin to pull away from their parents to deal with everything on their own and as parents sometimes it’s easier to think, they can handle it. So ask yourselves, “If that is the case, why are so many of these incidents making headline news?”
You hear it all the time, talk to your child, and I know it’s easier said than done. I received calls from school that began to be so frequent I could almost guess when I would get the next phone call regarding my sons’ behavior. I was frustrated because I knew he was acting out because of the bullying that I did not waste any time explaining how I felt about my son not being the only student who keeps getting in trouble. Due to his height, he is easy to spot a mile away, and he keeps being targeted if he were to even breathe the wrong way. This was frustration on my part as a mother trying to protect my child and wanting someone else to blame. The hard truth is that we as parents are the ones that need to become our child’s biggest advocate to protect them.
During a recent conversation with my son, I wanted to cover the importance of his grades, which was my instinct as a parent wanting better for their child. As my son began talking about the teenage drama that is getting him down and how frustrated he gets about people talking about him, I had to put myself in his position. Remember that as a kid how what other people thought of you and things, they said did impact how you felt about yourself. If your child doesn’t talk to you find them someone they will talk to, my son admitted that it was awkward to talk to me because I am not one of his peers, but I explained that I would rather talk to someone who has been there, instead of someone who is still trying to figure it out. That valid point kept the conversation open, and he is a happier kid now because of it.
Don’t be scared to pull the tough love card on your children. Everyone is afraid to be a parent anymore; myself included sometimes, that we have let this generation fall by allowing them too much freedom, expecting they can handle everything on their own, or just feeling so distant and not knowing how to talk to them. Keeping communication open with our teens not only makes them feel better about who they are but also keeps them safe; knowing where they are and who their friends are. Keep in mind until that child moves out from under your roof; if you pay the phone bill you have the right to check their phone, you have the right to know who you are letting into your home and around your children, because you have the obligation of dealing with the consequences if you don’t.
If you find your child keeping to themselves, erasing text messages, clearing the history browser on the computer, this should be a beacon of light letting you know you need to step up your game. As a parent we need to monitor our children for their own safety. If they are not talking to you, you need to find out why. Promise that they can talk to you about literally anything because as long as you know you can help them deal with any issue. Talk to them about their friends and what they are going through and give situations of what it means to be a friend and the obligations of being a friend. Maybe they have a friend who is using drugs, smoking, having sex far too young, or engaging in other potential life-threatening situations. Let them know it is easier to deal with a friend being mad at you for doing right by them than a friend you may never see again. As parents we are not obligated to care or worry about other people’s children but put yourself in those parents place who may be going through the same thing, reach out and find support in each other.
The emphasis is to instill in our children how much they mean to us by let them know what unconditional love means. Do random acts of kindness for your kids like bringing them lunch at school, take them somewhere just the two of you, and include them in conversation? Funny or cool things your friends are posting on your Facebook page, tell them you love them every day, and ask how their day was. Even if at first you feel you are intruding, this shows them how much they mean to you. When our children feel good about themselves, it doesn’t matter as much what other people think or say. Remind them that bullying or being bullied is never ok: in person, online, or over the phone. If you are monitoring, then what you know will give you a better understanding of what your child is dealing with and makes it easier to decide which topics to talk about.
I would like to see a more proactive approach to bullying, not only elementary schools but high schools as well. It is not enough to expect parents to keep their children safe without the help from the community and school. Just sending home flyers that rarely get to the parents is not sufficient involvement. Just as important as it is for students to learn English, Math, and Science, it is equally if not more important for them to know how to treat one another. If this is an issue, you are seeing in the school your child attends, bring it to the attention of the principal or directly to the school district itself. Suggest classes geared to raising self-esteem and appropriate ways of handling these issues. We should not be playing catch up with our children when we should have already been there and done that.
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