In most modern households, moms tell their kids that violence is never a solution and that hitting other children is never OK. But if you’ve ever been a child who experienced bullying, you’ll realize how woefully inadequate this advice really is.
Younger children are in an important developmental stage where they’re learning the nuances between right and wrong, learning about their own self-esteem and learning that in life, there are sometimes people who actively seek to harm you. As a parent, you understandably want to give your child the best tools to navigate encounters with bullies – but this is trickier than it first seems.
Here are 3 simple principles to help you and your child deal with bullying at school.
A bullied child can feel a crushing sense of powerlessness. Especially for younger children, the sudden discovery that they can be left alone to fend for themselves can eat away at their confidence. However, you teach your child to respond to bullying, a good place to start is to counteract this sense of powerlessness.
Encourage your child to understand and take charge of their own power, as well as their own rights in a situation. Feeling self-reliant is often worth more than finding outside justice from parents or teachers. Use a bullying incident to teach your child to moderate their own emotions and actions. Let them form their own opinions and values about it, and give them the chance to act to honor that.
Teach the difference between self-defense and aggression
Many parents urge their children to “turn the other cheek” or ignore bullying, which, if you know any bullies, can often invite more trouble than it's worth. The fear that parents are encouraging violence in their children if they tell them to fight back is understandable – but there's a difference between aggression and self-defense.
Show your children that there's nothing wrong with assertively maintaining their boundaries. Responding to aggression with aggression, when done fairly and confidently, is often the only thing that puts bullies in their place and communicates that your child is not a pushover. Of course, this goes back to the first point – it is also your child’s responsibility to not escalate and become a bully themselves.
Raise confident kids
Aggressive people seek out those who appear to be vulnerable. Vulnerable behavior can be incredibly subtle – body language, speech, etc. – but can send a clear message to predators and bullies that your child is fair game. Now, teaching such a child to just deal with the problem or passively report it to authorities only undermines their power even more – and gives the bullies what they want.
Instead, try to raise children who are generally assertive, confident and capable. When you teach a child to accept things without question, when you punish them for asserting their opinions or when you treat their anger as unacceptable, you are raising passive children. Instead, reward them for strength of all kinds. Encourage independence.
Victims are created long before there are predators to take advantage of them.
Bullying isn't the same as when I was younger
Sadly, many parents either view bullying as merely a kids will be kids thing that's completely normal, or insist on telling their children that they ought to follow the rules – even when others don’t.
How you raise your child is naturally a very personal question, but whatever the values in your family, encouraging responsibility, confidence and healthy boundaries in your child is never a bad thing.
Do you have any more tips that might be helpful? If you liked this article, feel free to share it on social media so someone you know might benefit from it.
What You Can Do
The founder of Combat Mindset, Michael Saad, is a straight-forward and easy to follow Results Coach that helps athletes, fighters and tactical operators get mentally and physically stronger.