The Values of Kindness and Discipline: What to do when your Child is being Bullied
Posted on March 10 2017
“Train a child the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
One of the many dilemmas parents have is finding out or seeing that their precious child is being bullied.
“Bullying,” as defined, is the use of superior strength or influence to intimidate someone, typically to force them to do something. It is a repetitive display of physical, social, or verbal aggression towards a less powerful person (or group) that is intended to cause harm or fear.
I was bullied at school as a child and it was one of those times in my life where I felt completely lonely and powerless.
What can I say… Looking back, I wish that I had the courage to stand up for myself or tell an adult what was going on then. The only time an adult interfered was when my mother started noticing that I was making up excuses not to go to school. I told her the truth. The bullies eventually stopped terrorising me for the remainder of my middle school years.
Bullying is never acceptable. It is not “okay.” It is not “cool.” No one deserves to be bullied nor do they have the right to bully anyone regardless of age, race, and/or gender.
My husband said that kids are resilient; that they move on easily after a fight with another kid. However, some kids carry the scars of the past until their adult years. Some deal with the ugly effects of bullying the hard way most especially when the wounds of yesterday have marred something permanent within the depths of their soul. (The saying: Sticks and stones may break your bones is just so passe!) Fortunately, in my case, I didn’t turn out to be some trigger-happy freak when it comes to inflicting physical pain on my own children. Instead, I focused on improving myself as a parent and individual, learned to embrace my flaws that I have no control over, and be comfortable in my own skin.
Then again, people cope differently…
Bullying can lead to
- A lowered self-esteem
- Feelings of sadness, depression, and isolation
- Shame and embarrassment
- Thoughts of self-harm
Why are there bullies?
Some say that when coming from a family where smacking was abounded in order to enforce discipline, you would turn into a bully. Not true, at least, in my case. I was smacked when I did something really naughty but I turned out just fine, not that I was a big fan of it or anything.
Some say that you can teach discipline without raising your hand to a child, which has also been proven to be quite effective.
Some parents use the “method” of treating their kids – nay, toddlers – like equal adults and letting them make their own decisions and expect them to act like disciplined individuals (sorry Tom and Suri.)
I do understand that it is none of our of business how other parents raise their children, and this doesn’t exclude their lack of discipline. However, our general responsibility as parents is to ensure that we are raising humble, civilised, and kind-hearted human beings who can mingle harmoniously with the world.
Bullying occurs everywhere – in every society and in every community. I have researched for ways on how to deal with misbehaving children (as well as their parents) in subtle ways and here’s what I found:
1.- When bullying happens at home. Enforce your own house rules and stand firm when it comes to reinforcing them.
- SITUATION: A friend comes over with her child to play with your daughter. Her child begins running around the house and sneaks into your home office – where everyone knows children are not allowed. Your friend, who is notorious for not disciplining her child, doesn’t say anything.
- SOLUTION: Do not hesitate to tell them that you have a house rule that prohibits children from going into the home office as there are things in there that children aren’t allowed to touch. If your friend says that it’s ok for them to go in there, politely explain that your children aren’t allowed to go in there and it would be unfair to bend the rules for others. Your guests should be able to respect your house rules.
2.- When bullying happens at the playground or in a public area. Redirect. When a child begins to misbehave, use the power of redirection – which is referred to as shifting a negative behaviour into a positive one.
- SITUATION: You and your friend have agreed to meet at a health club’s swimming pool area along with your kids to play. Her child suddenly uses your child as a human floater. Your friend doesn’t say or do anything to stop the situation from getting worse considering that your own child is screaming and is clearly upset.
- SOLUTION: Instead of telling your friend to tell their kid to stop what they’re doing, hand the other child a floater and tell them to use that instead. (To be honest, this would take me a lot of patience not to tell the other kid off!) If this doesn’t stop, remove your child from the current situation by comforting them and placing them in another pool that seems to be free of rowdy kids.
3.- When bullying happens at school. Studies show that 25% of schools report that bullying among children occurs on a weekly or daily basis. It usually takes place in the locker room area, on the school bus, or at the cafeteria.
- When your child opens up about being bullied, lend them your ears. Let them know how proud you are to them for letting you know and that they have your unconditional support. Consult with school authorities about their policies on bullying and find out how they can address the situation.
- Use the “buddy-up system” for safety. This means telling your child to have a friend with them during recess periods since a bully is less likely to attack them when they are not alone. You can also advise your child to remain calm once the bully strikes given that bullies generally thrive on harming others.
- Talk to the bully’s parents. This can sometimes be constructive but it is recommended that you set this up on school grounds in the presence of a school official so they can mediate just in case.
4.- When your child is being bullied online. The Internet is a vast ocean of information that many people easily have access to, including children. Parents need to be their kids’ pillars of strength whenever they find themselves in a situation that threatens their well-being. Here’s what parents can do:
- Talk and listen to your child. Engage them in conversation about what is happening. Avoid interjecting or freaking out otherwise they will just shy away. Make sure that your child feels safe and supported.
- Gather evidence. Collect screenshots of conversations, pictures, messages, and anything else that proves that your child is clearly being bullied online.
- Refrain from confronting the bully’s parents as some tend to be defensive and/or aggressive when they feel that their child is being accused of such.
- Get in touch with the school and work with its officials. Children have the right to feel safe and be safe in any school environment and it is the responsibility of the school authorities to investigate and provide appropriate measures regarding the incident.
- When physical threats are involved, get in touch with your local authorities. (‘Nuff said)
- When the bullying reoccurs on social media, set up privacy controls within each social platform to prevent the bully or any other unknown person from getting in touch with your child – that means blocking them. It is also advisable to monitor your child’s online activity and usage.
5.- But how do I deal with negative reactions from other parents?
Handle criticisms and anger from co-parents with grace. You may be the calmest and diplomatic parent there is, but there will be a time when you encounter a non-disciplinarian who might find it offensive that you redirected their misbehaving child’s behaviour.
- SITUATION: Another kid takes your child’s toy while she is still playing with it and you politely ask them to give it back. Their parent suddenly interjects and raises their voice at you.
- SOLUTION: Keep your cool. Tell the parent that you understand where they are coming from and your own child tends to act the same way from time to time. Tell them that you are also at a loss when it comes to handling this type of scenario and ask them what they would do when faced with such. Saying something like this would diffuse the heat and would help them realise that their child instantly needs to be disciplined.
Yes, we should allow our kids to be kids but we should also let them know that there are certain boundaries that they cannot cross.
We have to teach our children that it’s not okay to be mean to someone just so they can have it their way.
All of us may have different parenting styles, but instilling in our children the values of kindness and sharing goes a long way. After all, we’re the ones who’d be putting up with them in the years to come :)
I’d like to hear about your disciplining styles. What has worked and what hasn’t? How do you deal with the “thumbs down” from other parents? Let us know in the comments section below!
Til the next post!