Simple Strategies to Empower Your Child around Bullying.
There is no doubt when your child comes home from school and says they have been bullied in some way that it can be very distressing and as a parent our initial thought is to jump in a save them, to make it all right again. But before you rush in telling your child what they must do and putting the world to rights, just breathe for a minute and go through these steps first. So how can we empower our children around bullying?
- Listen and I mean really listen to your child. Don’t listen just to get the facts or listen to figure out the next step or listen so you can give advice. Really listen, listen to what happened, how it made they feel, what they did about it, what they want to happen next time and how they feel about it now. Listen until you feel you have listened too much. Listen without passing judgment or comment on what they are saying.
- Ask them what they want. Most parents assume that the child is telling you because they want you to do something, but that is not always the case. Ask them what you want to happen next, how they want to handle this. If they find these questions too difficult to answer, ask them what they don’t want and go from there.
- Help them clarify what really happened. Often children label things as bullying when they aren’t. Saying something mean once, or something funny that you child didn’t appreciate is not necessarily bullying. Help them find the right language. Is it rude behaviour, mean behaviour, bullying or assault? These all need a slightly different approach.
- Help your child come up with five solutions. Brainstorm with them what they could possibly do and if you are having problems coming up with solutions, use these questions to help.
What would really shock the bully?
What do you think they might find funny?
How do they want you to react?
What would you never do?
Use creative questioning to get to at least five solutions
- When you have five workable solutions ask your child which one they feel will work best for them or which couple they like the sound of. Then role-play these solutions with them; make this as light and funny as you possibly can and do it a few times. Make sure in the role play that you use the words the bully uses. What we are trying to do here is take the sting out of the words, show your child that these words have no power and that they can handle this.
- Ask them what support they need. Don’t assume they need any or assume they don’t; ask them what help they need to make this happen. Do they need some help from you, a friend or a teacher? Ask them and then make sure you get them the support they need, and if they say they don’t need any, trust them.
- Get a firm commitment as to when they will implement the plan. Then when they have, talk it through asking how did it go, did it work, what went well, what didn’t go so well, what would they change if they did it again. Have a conversation that examines how the solution worked and didn’t work, then make a plan to move forward.
When we allow our children to deal with situations themselves and find solutions themselves we are teaching them a valuable lesson. We are teaching them they are capable, that they can do more than they think and that they can solve their own problems; this is a very powerful lesson. I always remember when my eight-year-old was getting bullied and how difficult it was not to step in, but I went through this process and she found a way of dealing with it herself. That increased her confidence and belief in herself and allowed her to deal with much more challenging situations that arrived later on.
Obviously, if there is any violence involved in the bullying that is a crime and I would always advise that parents take these matters very seriously and report to the school and police. But before you do this please still ask your child what they want to happen as they still need to feel responsible for their own lives.