Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
None of us are immune to bullying. Or the mix of emotions it triggers. Bullying can happen in almost any setting imaginable: the classroom, at home, social media, at work, summer camp, etc. And it can come in many different forms: verbal, psychological, physical, cyber. It’s impossible to predict who might get bullied and when. So how do we prepare children for it? Even the most self-assured person is still human and susceptible to the sting of a well-placed insult. The trick is to not let those stings build up and overwhelm your own sense of self.
Be the bigger person.
Such a simple concept yet so hard to practice. Imagine you’ve just been called stupid by a classmate in front of the whole class or found out you were the only one of your friends who wasn’t invited to a birthday party, how many of us keep our composure when that happens? The last thing you might be thinking is “stay calm, their words/actions don’t matter”. Instead you’re angry, hurt, sad, embarrassed or confused. In the end you might give into one of those emotions bubbling to the surface, maybe by crying or lashing out at the person who’s wronged you. Reacting this way might feel good in the moment but what about when the emotions fade? Guilt or more embarrassment about what you did might soon follow.
Eye for an eye.
Violence does not have not to be met with violence. Work with your child to identify the emotions they feel when faced with stressful or scary situations. Having a familiarity with the emotions triggered by stress might help them to remain calm when faced with a bully. Work with them on recognizing if they are in a situation that could turn physical and if they are teach them there is no shame in walking away or asking for help from an adult. If they are faced with a bully with no physical threat help them build their confidence enough to stand their ground and try talking to the bully or to have no reaction at all. Getting a strong response and feeling that sense of power or control that comes with it is what most bullies are after and reinforces the bullying behavior. The strongest defense against many bullies is taking the power of reaction away from them.
Believe in yourself!
Remind your children and yourselves that we are not the sum of what others say/think about us. They cannot control what other people say or think. They have the power to change and shape what they think about themselves into what they want it to be. It won’t be easy, and they will meet a lot of resistance during the process, but you can help them by supporting them and creating an environment that encourages honest communication from an early age. This doesn’t mean they will be 100% immune to bullying but with a solid internal foundation perhaps external jabs won’t be able to cause as much, lasting damage.
Let’s all be Good Buddies out there to ourselves and each other!