The Importance of Teaching Children to Stand Up For Themselves

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It’s almost ironic, that today parenting has become so liberal – and exposure of bullying has become so widespread. There are hundreds of videos on You Tube that feature bullies as well horrific stories of bullying that leads to suicide. Look no further than your evening news or local newspaper and you will see just how widespread bullying is.

But you have to admit that sadly, bullying is nothing new. You had to put up with it in school, as did your parents and grandparents. The truth is that this world will always be full of bullies, and that even as adults, it is nearly impossible to get away from these people.

So why then, would any parent try to teach their child to turn the other cheek?

Sure, there are times in life when it might be better to walk away, to not get involved, and to learn how to feel safe stepping out of the way of bullies rather than confronting them. Yet as a rule, and as a matter of principle and self-respect parents should be teaching children to stand up for themselves. And this is much more than simply a matter of one author’s opinion.

Check out these facts courtesy of the Book, Teaching Your Kids to Stand Up For Themselves, by Cory Woosley.

  • 1 out of 4 kids is bullied
  • 1 out of 5 kids admits to bullying
  • 8% of students miss one day of class per month for fear of being bullied
  • 43% fear harassment in bathrooms at school
  • Most bullying is seen in 6th-8thgrade
  • Most violence happens on school grounds

And worse yet, is that ALL experts on bullying alike agree that children are targeted by bullies that look for certain traits. One of the most highly desired personality trait that a bully looks for in a classmate or random child is insecurity combined with a lack of know-how on how to take care of themselves in these pesky and frightening social situations.

Bottom line, if you are only concerned with teaching your child how to escape bullies and are constantly giving your child advice on how to avoid being targeted – you are setting your child up for many years of being on the receiving end of ill willed behavior. The truth is that all of us, young and old – should know how to stand up for ourselves as a precursor for numerous life situations. This doesn’t mean that your child should be brazen or rude at the first sign of being mistreated, but that they should be empowered to stick up for themselves when they feel their personal space or security is being questioned.

And take it from bullies themselves, once your child does and CAN stand up for themselves, the bullies in life will move on to another child who is less equipped to stand up for themselves.

One of the most important parental roles in teaching kids how to be an advocate for themselves is to realize what your role as mom and dad really are. While you may want to march over to the other child who is acting indigent, and say a few choice words (or shake them by their toes) – this only makes things worse. Parents need to pass on the skills to their child, and then allow the child to solve the problems for themselves. This in no way means that if something at school is out of hand, or beyond your children’s ability to control - that you shouldn’t get involved or get those in authority involved. But it does mean, that you need to give your child the words and means to take care of things themselves.

Here are a few tips for teaching children (even a young one) to stick up for themselves!

  • Role-play at home with your child. Use a scenario from the playground that they have experienced or from an incident at school and literally teach your child how to script the words to fend for themselves. Do this many times; in the comfort of your own home until they become acquainted with the words and will be able to say them believably should they be confronted.
  • Talk about their feelings. Enable them to recognize ‘feelings’ that occur when they are being mistreated by others. Additionally, don’t try to guilt them for feeling angry or not liking other classmates or children. Sometimes, their intuition knows best.
  • Allow your child to handle the situation first! Before you intercede, make sure that your child is asking you to.
  • Teach your child how to be safe in all situations. Often, safe means staying close to other adults and remaining out of trouble. When children have a keen sense of what it feels like to be safe and secure, they are better able to react when the feelings of being unsafe occur.
  • Make sure YOU stand up for yourself, especially in the presence of your child so they can learn from your behavior.

Your child has a long life ahead of them. During this life, they are going to encounter friends and partners, co-workers and strangers alike – all who will take advantage of them if they allow it. Human nature says that the weaker links will be picked on by those that think they are stronger. Instead of simply trying to get your child to constantly avoid these entanglements with other, or to always find the peaceful method of resolution – be certain that you also tell them how to defend themselves, both emotionally and physically, should the situation arise.

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