Bullying is incredibly common, ranging from the small actions of hiding classmates’ stationery to physically harming others. They can happen in schools, public places and online, probably anywhere you can think of.
Much as we wish to shield our children and protect them from being bullied, it is nearly impossible to do so. How then shall we raise our children to be confident in building positive and healthy relationships with others, and — in a way — bully-proof?
When my husband was younger, he was bullied on the school bus. The perpetrators would hide his bag and make nasty remarks about him. He was so young and too fearful to tell anyone about it so he kept silent. He finally dissolved in tears one day when the bullies targeted him again, alerting the lady who chaperoned the students on the bus. She reprimanded the bullies, and the bullying stopped. But could something have been done to pre-empt the emotional angst?
My elder son will be entering Primary 1 soon. Part of our preparation is readying him to manage potential bullies, and I use these 4 ways to help him prepare.
Talk about bullying before it happens.
Explain what bullying is to your child. Give them advice and help them practice how to stand firm and stay calm when they are being bullied. Aggressors often target those who appear weak and timid. So, it is important not to show signs of fear.
While this might be a tad difficult for younger children, it doesn’t hurt preparing them early. Starting young also opens a communication channel for them to talk about their hurt, embarrassment and fear when bullying actually takes place.
Teach them to exercise self-control.
It is only human to react when provoked, and bullies derive enjoyment from watching victims react. But the bully’s interest can be doused if the victim chooses not to respond to taunting or under-developed behaviour.
Our home is the perfect training ground for my children. When my second son taunts his elder brother and the latter shouts back furiously, I’ve noted that my second son enjoys further provocation. We constantly remind our boys not to react in such situations.
The bully’s interest can be doused if the victim chooses not to respond.
Our elder son told us proudly one day, “I didn’t react and di di (brother) really stopped laughing at me.” I knew it was a big win for him, and also for me, in our practice of self-control. This is still a work-in-progress at home, but this episode showed us all that our behaviour could further fuel the situation, or bring it to a stop.
Build up their confidence.
Often, children become targets because they exude fear and low self-esteem. On the contrary, confident children exhibit strength and stability. It is harder for bullies to prey on such children, so find ways to help your children develop a healthy self-image through sports, music or other areas they like.
My second son lacks self-confidence, and likes to tell us “I cannot do it.” Over time, my husband and I have discovered that he has a knack for colouring and art! So we scouted for art lessons for him and this has helped him know that there are things he is good at, building up his self-image.
Confident children exhibit strength and stability.
Help them acquire interpersonal skills.
Bullying can be non-verbal and the victim is often ostracised by others. As an educator, I’ve handled various bullying cases, and see that victims usually lack the interpersonal skills to make lasting friendships. Recently, I noticed that a girl in my class struggled to make friends. If she befriended someone, the friendship was short-lived. From my personal observations, she can be overbearing when she relates to her peers, lacking in sensitivity and responds inappropriately. I am not condoning her bullies’ behaviour, but she cannot be totally absolved for what has taken place.
Deliberately train your children to relate well with others. For example, encourage your children to initiate conversations. My husband asked my eldest son to select some photographs from a recent family trip, encouraging him to share his experiences when we visited my in-laws. Interpersonal skills have to be both taught and caught. Children also learn when they see how we interact with them, our friends and community.
Deliberately train your children to relate well with others.
As parents, we build relationships with them through conversations, taking a jaunt to the playground, or enjoying an ice-cream together. Don’t underestimate these simple tasks you do with them — they teach your children how to become attached to real people. When your bond with your kids is strong, it will be easier to talk about issues that make them afraid, and for you to impart courage and confidence to them.
©2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved
Ee Ping is always on the go as she juggles work while raising three young and active boys with her husband. She finds great joy in the written word, so she writes for education magazines and also blogs about parenting and marriage at Musing Mum. Her choice of relaxation? A good book!
What happens when we relate our children based on their traits instead of their grades? Join other parents in the Race to Praise 30 Day Challenge this Children’s Day!