In my last blog, I shared a bullyproofing strategy called ‘No Vacancy’, which has proven to be very effective for a large number of the students that I’ve worked with. Click here to read it. Whether it’s a true bully situation or not, ‘No Vacancy’ reminds us that we have the power to choose who (or what) will rent space in our mind.
Today I’d like to provide parents with some helpful information as they embark on this bullyproofing process for their child. It’s important to remember that NO child is immune from bullying, so preparing yourself as parents to coach your child through this process is absolutely critical.
So, what do you do if your child comes home from school and complains that another student is verbally bullying them?
While there are obviously countless approaches for addressing this scenario with your child, I’d like to share what I feel are two ineffective solutions and two effective solutions. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal of my program is to empower the child, so these solutions are designed with that notion in mind.
1. Tell your child to “ignore” the bully. This is one of the biggest mistakes I made as a classroom teacher when students would approach me with a bullying issue. By telling a child to ignore hurtful words, it’s as if you are saying to them, “Just STOP thinking about it.” The law of resistance tells us that the more we try NOT to do something, the more we are going to do it. Kids need to have an opportunity to process the thoughts and feelings they are experiencing. If we teach them to repress their thoughts and feelings, they will ultimately be expressed in ways that are often unwelcome (i.e. emotional outbursts).
2. Spend an inordinate amount of time criticizing the other child for his/her choices. As a parent myself, I know full well that our natural reaction in situations like this is to first and foremost protect our child. You might even find yourself saying things like, “How dare they treat my child like this,” or “I’m going to talk to this person and give them a piece of my mind.” However, the more you direct your anger toward the bully, the less you are empowering your child to be bullyproof. Essentially, the message to your child is that you will take care of their problems, instead of empowering them to be the problem solver themselves.
1. Reaffirm to your child that words don’t have to hurt. You’ve all heard the saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Sadly, this is untrue as words can often be very painful. I like to rephrase this statement by saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words DON’T HAVE TO hurt me.” The bully is interested in one thing and one thing only; a reaction. So, when a child responds by teasing back or becoming very angry, the bullying will likely continue. Therefore, we must empower our children by teaching them how to process words in an empowering way. The ‘No Vacancy’ strategy is one way to accomplish this. Also, there is a wonderful children’s book that illustrates the power of inside-out change called Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon. Even though it’s written for a younger audience, the message is applicable to all ages.
2. Encourage your child to lean on positive, kind people who will build them up. Whether it’s a parent, close friend, or mentor, kids need others to take part in the bullyproofing process. It’s so easy for a bullying victim to spend his/her time immersed in self-sabotage, thinking about what a bully has said or done. If this is the case, they naturally begin to isolate themselves and consequently suppress feelings that need to be expressed. Simply having a connection that will listen to you and support you unconditionally is extremely powerful.
P.S. I’d be grateful if you would share this blog with any families who have (or are) experiencing bullying issues with their child.