My daughter is turning two soon, which means we are about to have full-blown conversations, and she has to go to school.
I have been delaying this part because I enjoy having her around. Above all that, I get anxiety at the thought of her getting bullied by other children. The thought that our kids can potentially be ill-treated by other people can make any parent nervous. Our primary job as parents is to protect our children at all costs. So how do we continue to protect them even in our absence? How can we give them the necessary tools to deal with bullies?
Unfortunately, we can’t keep our kids in bubbles all the time, but we can give them tools that they need to survive on their own.
Below are some useful tips on guiding your bullied child.
1. Educate them about bullying
Some kids aren’t even aware that they are being bullied. They just assume that it is normal behaviour for the older boy to come take your lunch every afternoon. If your child is cognizant of the signs of bullying, then they can easily identify that it is happening to them. Talk to them about the dynamics of bullying, why other kids bully, and that it the fault of the person that is being bullied.
Bullying can inevitably lead kids to think that there is something wrong with them. Maybe it’s the way they look, talk, walk, or their personality. So, rather than having kids questioning themselves, and losing their self-esteem, talk to them. Educate them on the insecurities of the bully and why they might be bullying others.
2. Create a violence-free environment at home
This is an important point to note. Social behavioural learning teaches us that children learn through observation. So if a child sees violence in the home, whether verbal or physical, they are more likely to keep quiet about being bullied. This is because violence in the home normalises bullying.
The child might think: “Maybe this is how human beings are meant to interact with one another.”
3. Foster an open relationship with your child
Some parents often say they aren’t meant to be friends with their children, and that their job is to ensure that they are taken care of. This is all good and fair, but in the process of ensuring that your child is taken care of, also make sure that they are comfortable talking to you when they are going through something. Some parents only know months or even years later that their child is being bullied because their child never opened up to them. Maybe they find out from a teacher or other parents.
Children need to feel free and safe to report any form of an incident that is linked to bullying. They first need to know what bullying looks like and report it the instant it happens. The longer they keep quiet, the more confident the bully feels and continues to bully.
4. Supervise their social media usage
Cyberbullying is on the rise, and more and more kids are using social media. Kids having their independence is great, but it is also important to note what your kids are up to when they are online. The more open those channels are; the more parents are equipped to guide their children through the bullying.
5. Help your kids shut it down early
Bullying hardly starts with aggressive behaviour. It starts with teasing the child about their height, their stutter, or their glasses. How your child reacts to the first harassment determines the rules of engagement going forward. A confident child can assert that they do not find pleasure in others making snotty comments about their height.
This is only possible if your child has confidence and self-esteem. If they already have insecurities about how tall they are, then bullies will prey on those insecurities.
We must raise confident and assertive children.
They don’t have to react to the bullying violently. Teach them subtle and respectful ways to assert themselves.
6. Report, report, report!!
Some kids are not as assertive as others, so it is challenging to deal with the bullying on their own. These kids should never feel intimated to tell their teachers that their school mate is bullying them. This might stop the bully in their tracks. The bullying might persist, and your child must also be persistent when reporting. Some cases will eventually require the intervention of both parents.
Parents should not be hesitant to intervene. Remember your job? Your child relies on you to be protected. Parental intervention should never be the first option. The truth is that KIDS ARE MEAN.
Your son could have been bullied for their glasses, but after your intervention, they might be bullied for being a mama’s boy. Allow your children to handle the situation on their own first. If this does not come to fruition, then the parents may be involved.
There isn’t a clear-cut solution to the total eradication of bullying. But parents can do their best to help their kids first identify bullying, and manage it accordingly.
We teach people how to treat us. So the sooner your child can identify that they are a bully’s next victim, the sooner they can avert that behaviour.
Karabo Motsiri is a first-time mom, over-sharer, lover of life, chronic napper and married to her best friend. She loves a good party because the dance floor is her happy place. She enjoys good food, good conversations, laughs a little too hard, and cries during every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. She started her blogging journey because she wanted to share all the ups and downs of being a young modern mama in South Africa. Her blog Black Mom Chronicles has been featured on Ayana Magazine & SA Mom Blog. She has enjoyed airtime on Power FM and frequently writes for the parenting section of Saturday Citizen. She also works with MamaMagic on their Product Awards, Milestones Magazine, Heart to Heart blog, and the Baby Expo, which is South Africa’s biggest parenting expo.