Disciplining Children – Teach Anti-Bullying Skills
Guest Post by Gary Unruh
Mia’s finally fallen asleep after another crying spell. I’ve talked to her second grade teacher three times about her being bullied. I always comfort Mia and tell her to just ignore the bullying. I’m really getting ticked off at this bully, and I feel so helpless. Now I can’t get to sleep.
More and more parents in my practice are experiencing the same helplessness. We want our children to brush off teasing, ignoring it whenever possible. But when teasing gets out of hand, it sure is painful to see our children hurting—and for such a disgusting reason. Even worse, it seems like the bully is far too often more protected than the one being bullied!
I’m not bashing schools, but very few teachers seem to have an effective way to help kids deal with bullies. The standard message, whether it’s said or not, is Let them work it out themselves.
Actually, the message is on the right track, but kids need skill training to get the job done. Here are three anti-bullying tips to help your child.
1. Bullies need a payoff. When the two bullies corner Mia and make fun of her curly hair, she cries and runs away. The same two bullies call Adam a nerd, he yells back with several nasty comments, and the two bullies laugh their heads off while Adam stomps away.
Mia retreats and Adam attacks. That’s the payoff bullies need—to see someone else be miserable—and Mia and Adam are perfect targets. When bullies don’t get a payoff, they eventually give up and find someone else to make miserable.
Your job: Teach your child to not give the bullies what they want.
2. Anti-bullying skills can be learned. Bottom line: Show no upset and give a confident response. Teach your child through role playing three actions: (1) present confident body language (stand straight and make eye contact); (2) ask one question; and then (3) leave confidently. Asking a question is the most important thing to do. It puts your child in control. With some practice, Mom taught Mia to say confidently, eye to eye, “Thanks for noticing my curls; I love ’em; see ya later” as she turns and waves goodbye. Here are several important tips to keep in mind: Avoid hurtful statements; keep the reply short—one sentence only (bullies will comment, but don’t respond); and ask a question or use humor. Here’s an example: “Who said straight’s so great?” Don’t expect the bullying to stop immediately, but do expect a more confident child who feels in control.
Insist on no bullying when all else fails. Do not allow the teasing to continue after your child has implemented your anti-bullying training. It’s not always easy for parents to be demanding, but in this case you need to be a junkyard dog. Ongoing teasing is damaging to your child.
Take-home lesson: Successful anti-bullying behavior will build valuable confidence in your child.
Gary M. Unruh, MSW LCSW, a forty-year veteran mental health practitioner, is the author of 2010 award-winning book: Unleashing the Power of Parental Love: 4 Steps to Raising Joyful and Self-Confident Kids (www.unleashingparentallove.com).