It's a moment and a message that all parents dread to experience today. The moment you learn that your child is being bullied. A few common reactions are: "Why my child?!" "Why are they picking on you?!" "What did you do or say?!" "We’re going to the school in the morning to tell the principal!" "Let’s go talk to the bully’s parents!" "You hit them back!" "You fight back regardless if you win or lose!" "I’m calling the police so we can put an end to this right now!"
A parent's thoughts and emotions soar like never before once they learn the "bullying" is happening to your child! Yes, it hurts when you learn of it. Yes, as a caring and loving parent, your heart goes out for your baby. Yet, this is not the time for you to lose yourself in a whirlwind of anger and reckless thoughts of retaliation. Now, more than ever—your child needs you! Your child's self-esteem needs you.
Dealing with bullies can be difficult, and helping your child to sustain a healthy self-esteem throughout a bullying experience can be more difficult. Sustaining and developing healthy self-esteem has much to do with how you deal with a bully and the whole bullying experience.
On KidsHealth.org, one of the most-visited websites devoted to children’s health and development, in an article titled "Developing Your Child’s Self-Esteem," it states:
"Self-esteem is the beliefs or feelings we have about ourselves, our 'self-perceptions.' What we think of ourselves. How we define ourselves influences our motivations, attitudes, and behaviors and affects our emotional adjustment.
Healthy self-esteem is a child's armor against the challenges of the world. Kids who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They tend to smile more readily and enjoy life. These kids are realistic and generally optimistic."
What can you do, as a parent, to soothe and improve your child's self-esteem, when he or she is being bullied? The following steps of positive and caring action can make a big difference:
How to Soothe Your Child's Self-Esteem
1) Help your child to understand bullying.
Do your own up-to-date research on bullying. Learn the most accurate causes and effects of bullying. Find resources online and offline for you to consult, and make a written list of them. Then explain to your child what bullying is and why it may be happening to him or her.
2) Listen to your child and redirect inaccurate beliefs.
Ask your child, "What is bullying? Why do you think bullying is happening to you?" Listen to your child without interruption. After your child has finished answering your questions, re-explain and redirect inaccurate beliefs he or she may have expressed. Explain to them the difference between bullying, teasing, assault, and teen dating violence (if necessary).
3) Let your child know you’re with them, not against them.
Sometimes depending on the type of bullying that is taking place, a parent may take away their child's computer, cell phone, other forms of technology or clothing. When you as a parent do this to your child because you think it will bring a prompt end to them being bullied, it can create the impression with your child that you're being overprotective, suffocating, and against them too.
While it's definitely a smart choice to care for and protect your child's safety when they're being bullied, it's also a smart choice to coach and guide your child through their bullying experience in a positive and healthy way. Embracing and comforting your child through their bullying experience will soothe their self-esteem far better than taking everything away from them. It will also make them feel you are definitely on their side and a caring person they can count on to make it through this difficult time.
4) Discuss and model the positive behavior to deal with a bully.
As stated before, this is not the time for you to lose control and become a negative model of behavior for your child. Discuss with your child your plan of action moving forward to address the situation as a positive and caring parent.
Encourage your child to stand up for him- or her- self while not making the situation worse by name calling, fighting or interjecting any other negative behaviors. Let your child know that he or she has the right to ask to be left alone, and they have the right to expect their wishes to be respected.
5) Take positive and immediate action to help resolve the bullying issue.
If this is a school related situation, contact the school's head principle and resource office (police or security) and request a meeting with them, the other students involved, their parents, your student and you. At this meeting make sure that things are being discussed fairly and openly in a positive, professional and calm manner between everyone. Request a typed plan of action with an agreement to be created and signed by everyone present. Also request a follow-up meeting three to five weeks later to check to see if the bullying of your child has completely stopped.
If this is a neighborhood situation, contact the police and the parents of the other child/children involved, and arrange a meeting at your home. At this meeting make sure that things are being discussed fairly and openly in a positive and calm manner between everyone. Request a typed plan of action with an agreement to be created and signed by everyone present. Also request a follow-up meeting three to five weeks later with the children and parents to check to see if the bullying has completely stopped.
How to Improve Your Child's Self-Esteem
1) Give positive and accurate feedback.
As you're working to resolve and stop bullying from happening to your child, keep your child up-to date on what's taking place. At the same time, ask your child to share openly and straightforwardly what's happening to them, if anything, in school or in the community when you're not there. Keep the lines of communication open, honest, going and flowing.
2) Teach your child the benefits of using positive self-talk.
Many times when bullying happens to a child they often feel that it was their fault. This can cause a child to begin to foster and use negative self-talk daily. As a parent, here is where you must encourage and empower your child daily with positive words of encouragement; to include, the use positive self-talk instead of negative self-talk.
A good example of positive self-talk that you could share and encourage your child to use is a saying from Dr. Wayne Dyer, "No matter what you do or say to me, I'm still a worthwhile person." There are many other positive sayings and affirmations online and in books. Search for them and begin sharing three or more of them with your child daily. Your child and their self-esteem will be glad you did.
3) Create a safe, nurturing home environment.
For a child who's being bullied, home has to be a safe and nurturing environment. Do not turn your home into a training center for developing a potential tough guy or girl. Do not begin to use harsh words and physical episodes of "tough love" thinking that it will toughen your child up and the bullying will stop. Think, create and foster a safe, nurturing home environment always; one that your child feels safe to openly and honestly express themselves without hesitation so you can come to their aide whenever they need you.
4) Encourage your child to pursue their interests.
Another part of positive self-talk is to also encourage your child to pursue their interests. This will also prevent them from possibly shutting down in school and life. Continuously talk to your child to find out what his or her interests are, and work with them to make sure they are able to participate in and follow-through on the fulfillment of their interests. Let your child know daily "You Were Born to Be GREAT!"
5) Get support.
With the severity level, safety level and seriousness of bullying today—always seek the intervention and support of others (principals, educators, police, church leaders, community leaders, behavior counselors, licensed therapist, caring and responsible parents, etc.) to help you successfully bring an end to your child’s bullying experience. No child deserves to be bullied! Yet, every child who is being bullied deserves the best team of caring and positive adults to work together to help them bring a healthy end to their bullying experience.
All of the above steps of positive and caring action will aide you in effectively soothing and improving your child’s self esteem, after finding out he or she is being bullied.
Remember, we cannot prevent and save our children from all of life's ugly and painful experiences—still, we should always try.
About the Author: Ty Howard is the author of the best-selling book Untie the Knots™ That Tie Up Your Life: Freeing Yourself from Toxic Habits, Choices, People, and Relationships, and the forthcoming teen character enrichment and empowerment book You Were Born to Be G.R.R.R.R.E.A.T.!!!!™. He is recognized around the world as a highly sought after consultant and expert on youth enrichment and teen empowerment. Ty teaches young people and the professionals who work with and develop them, how to defeat toxic habits, maintain a positive attitude, and achieve true greatness. With over 16 dedicated years as a Dynamic Professional Speaker for Youth & Teens, Ty has a proven track record for delivering inspiring and engaging programs that bring forth immediate positive change, desired outcomes, and real-life results.
For information on Ty Howard's programs and services, or to request written reprint permission, visit: http://www.dynamicyouthspeaker.com or call Toll Free 1-800-385-3177.