No parent wants to see his or her kid pushed around by others. Parents also don’t want their child to become the playground bully, bossing other kids around. The best defense against your child becoming a target of other stronger willed children is to teach them how to stand up for themselves. Largely, these are skills that are learned at home, taught lovingly by parents from a very young age.
Many children have a naturally laid back, and submissive personality. They do not want to cause a spectacle and make b-line into another direction at the first hint of trouble. When another child tries to take their toy or butt in line, they will easily take a step back allowing the more aggressive children to have their way. While this isn’t always a bad thing, children who make a habit of this behavior will eventually be targeted by bullies and taken advantage of by other children. Research about bullying indicates that bullies choose their victims wisely and rarely victimize children who stand up for themselves in the beginning of the relationship. The tricky part is teaching children to stand up for themselves, while allowing them to remain conscientious and compassionate towards others.
As soon as your child is able to verbalize or act out their feelings, they can learn to take a stand for what they feel is right or wrong. Parents should not discourage children from being angry or upset and instead help them find tools to redirect those feelings into productive solution based techniques. When you notice that your child feels cheated or slighted by you, a sibling or others – try not to chastise them for being angry. Instead, help them to find both words and positive actions that they can take to turn the situation around. If you start doing this when your child is young, they learn that their feelings are both important and warranted – and that as long as they act responsibly in their actions they will be able to get amicable results. Remember that anger, frustration and heated emotions are actually an indicator that something is wrong or doesn’t feel right. Instead of trying to keep your child continuously level headed and peace oriented; teach them to use their feelings to signal intuition about what they should do.
By elementary school, most children have a pretty firm internal barometer of what is right and wrong in life. They realize that rules exist across humanity which are designed to make things equal and fair. Parents should encourage children to speak for themselves at this age. Instead of immediately telling you or a teacher (tattletale), empower them with powerful voice commands that they can use on their own. By role-playing at home, and showing them that a firm (but not angry) voice can gain them respect and stop the wrong doer from taking advantage of them – you will help them learn how to protect themselves. Teach them that they shouldn’t hit, push back, or take a violent reaction towards another, but instead one that is true to how they feel. In your home, set up scenarios that they may encounter at school, with you being the bully or aggressor and give them a script they can use in those situations. This way, your child will learn that standing up for themselves is not only acceptable by you, but that there is an appropriate way to do it as well.
Bullying experts also recommend teaching children compassion for the bully. Life is full of bullies and even adults have to deal with them in every day life. Yet, the bully himself is often suffering from emotional problems and a general feeling of not being understood. When your child sees that the bully is pain, that he is not necessarily a bad person and feels confident to assert him or herself against him – the bully victim relationship cannot exist. In fact, as more studies go into the nature of bullying, leading experts have found that both the bully and the victim extract something from the relationship. However, when you child refuses to be part of the relationship, it cannot and will not exist. Many children put up with bullies and are victimized by them because they do not know that it is okay to stand up for themselves. This is the fundamental reason why teaching children to stand up for themselves is one of the most important things you can do for and with your child.
Think about how you react when your child stands up to you. If you immediately punish or inflict discipline, you are teaching them that this behavior is un-allowed. Sure, they should be respectful of adults in their life but keep in mind, that there are many adults in this world who will take advantage of a weak spirited child as well. The most important lesson for a child to learn is that if something doesn’t feel right to them, peaks their anger or hurts their feelings – then they should be allowed to verbalize their feelings in a confident manner.
Children who are taught to be confident and assertive are rarely targeted by a bully more than once. Teaching children to stand up for themselves is the key. Ensure that your child knows they don’t have to be mean spirited or hurtful in order to stand up for what they believe in, or else you will be teaching your child to be a bully. Warrant your child’s feelings, behaviors and emotions with compassion – asking them lots of questions and teaching them how talking about problems and feelings is more beneficial than ‘acting out.’ Also, give your child appropriate tools of self-empowerment that show them what they think or feel really counts at home and in life. Much too often, parents want their child to be the sweetest, most well liked kid in the classroom. You need to realize that they can be sweet, self-confident, assertive and respectful of others only if they respect themselves and their feelings first.