So, I realised that I have talked a lot about what creates the whole bullying situation and how it can be addressed at home. But I haven’t gone into lots of detail about how to identify what kind of strategies to teach your kids. I am assuming that you have at least read my two summaries on Bullying before reading this one, so I’m not going to duplicate the details in there.
That means, that by the point you are reading this blog, you have worked through:
Step 1 – Deal with your issues first
Step 2 – Stand back & objectively have a look at the Support/Challenge
Step 3 – What are they getting from it on both sides?
Step 4 – Devise a strategy
a) Where can you help to re-balance the support/challenge in your child’s life?
b) Help your child learn directly, what they have been learning indirectly.
c) Involve the school
d) Create a plan of action & monitor it
Help your child learn directly, what they have been learning indirectly.
So you know how I look at bullying from a different perspective and suggest that the bullied child is being given a hint about the fact that there is an area of their life that needs strengthening or something they need to learn? What I’m going to talk about is how to identify what your child needs to learn and then how to implement it.
There are seven areas of life, which if translated into a child/teenager’s world would look like this:
1) Spiritual – Views about what life means, religion, spirituality, ideas about a bigger picture. For children, this is likely to be noticeable to other children by obvious differences like clothing or food choice, possibly colour, although that will depend on where they live. When they get older, it will become more obvious, especially when views get expressed and discussed.
2) Mental – When younger is likely to be mainly to do with language and how vocal kids are. Then as they got older it will change more towards how clever they are at different subjects.
3) Vocational – Now obviously a toddler doesn’t really have a ‘job’, so think instead of their purpose in life, do they feel as though they have a value. Job’s may kick in as they get older, either as a badge of honour (working in a pub!), or as an embarrassment because of not being available. Plus the parent’s jobs will have an effect.
4) Financial – Again a toddler doesn’t really have their own dosh, and I suspect that only a teeny tiny percentage will actually notice clothes/cars etc, but they will quickly become aware of who has what toys. As they get older, this becomes very important, to teens because of clothes, phones and gadgets!
5) Family – is their relationships at home and later as teens, their romantic relationships.
6) Social – is their general understanding of social etiquette, handling different male/female different situations and how confident or over-confident they are in a group situation. This is incredibly important to all kids and teens in most cases, as often from a very young age, seeing their friends is a priority to them.
7) Physical – Finally, this is all about strength, looks, health, comparisons etc.
What happens in the case of a child being bullied, is that they are weak in one of these areas of life. Ironically, being strong or weak in an area of life, is not actually anything to do with ‘reality’, but instead perception i.e. how we feel or view about ourselves. A girl can be beautiful, but just not appreciate herself (or in the case of my school, vice versa!). Someone can be fabulous at maths, but desperately unhappy because they are not so good at english. Some could be terribly aware of their differences to the other children and others, just walk in totally unaware and oblivious.
I’m going to blog about perception in a different post (so I definitely recommend you checking that one out as well), but here we are going to focus on how to help your child become stronger.
Firstly, why would you bother? After all, your child is really bright, why does it matter that they feel physically weak? The reason is because you are looking (I assume!), to give your child a safe and bright future. Have you ever wondered how come one person gets made redundant and their life falls apart, whereas someone else is hardly effected? Same for divorce or relationship issues, and all sorts of problems? One reason is because if someone has varied interests across all areas of life (I’m not talking about being a star in all of them, just that there is something going on in each area), then when a key area of life gets tackled by a trauma or tragedy, they have all the other areas to keep them going and give them a reason for being. Whereas someone who only focusses on two areas, will be devastated if something goes wrong in one of those areas.
Now, there are hundreds of potential strategies, and I am not going to go into detail into each and everyone, because you and your family are unique. But if you have been following all my other guides, you will be feeling pretty calm about the whole issue, so you will easily be able to find the strategy that will work for you.
The most important thing to NOT do, is tell them that the bully is bad, and that they are the victim of the whole scenario, because that will just weaken them even more. Plus you don’t want to sit there and say ‘what did you do?’, as though it is their fault, as that won’t work either.
Let’s ignore ‘fault’ for a moment and instead come up with a strategy to make a difference:
everyone needs to learn when to speak up about their views and when not too. Young kids can be very self-righteous about beliefs, so it might be an idea to teach them discernment. If they are being bullied due to religious issues etc, then have a look for children with families who would not behave in that manner, or maybe focus on teaching them a thicker skin, where it really doesn’t matter what some kids think.
Where are they really brilliant? Focus on that, I bet there is somewhere. You may want to help them out with some additional assistance at home, or an extra class in something that would interest them (e.g. drama).
It can undoubtedly be tough if a child feels inadequate because they don’t ‘have’ the same things that other kids have. But stick with it and be certain. Find them stories of famous people in the same situation, show them how it will benefit them in the long run. There are literally hundreds of examples of situations where spoilt kids end up financially broke, because they never learn to handle money.
Where could they be given a sense of purpose and importance within the family? Is there a little job that they could be doing in order to earn their pocket money or improve their financial status?
Focus on why they are lucky to have the family structure that they have. Does it mean that they get more quality time separately with each parent? Does it mean the grand parents are more involved? Look at the families that are so called ‘ideal’, I bet you that with a little close inspection, they are not ideal at all. Help your child be sure of how lucky they are to have what they have. With relationships, well that’s a whole kettle of trouble for them as they grow up, so lots of preparation with talking about relationships in the early years, will help you keep tabs on things as they age.
Use books, DVD’s, role playing, games, talking, or maybe extra-curricular classes to help your child gain confidence socially. What is their value? What is special about them? Do they know how to handle social situations? Social confidence will pretty much overcome any other problem that they face, because if they know that they have a value socially, then they know their purpose in their social group! Remind them that it is an odd situation to have to get on with other kids purely because of their age; whereas when they go to work it will be more down to interest.
If they are rubbish at sport as I was, try a broader perspective because now a days there are HUGE numbers of different activities available. Remember, they maybe slow to learn, but given a chance, they can still learn to tackle something, somewhere. There was a wonderful story on pride of britain this year, about a Mum who took her daughter to martial arts classes, after she was bullied at school due to her artificial legs; Fantastic approach! I know a gorgeous girl with no hair, who is so strong and so confident, that having wigs has never appeared to cause her problems. However impossible it appears, keep your eyes open for places that they can gain some confidence. Remember, many people are amazingly attractive, even though their physical appearance is not gorgeous. (Cases such as anorexia are obviously much more complicated, and when I get a chance, I’ll give some ideas for them as well).
So in summary, you are going to help your child empower and strengthen the area of life, that the bully has highlighted to you could do with some strengthening. I’ve written 2 blogs on my own sons experiences so far, and will continue to do so as he grows and faces different types of bullying.