You know why bullies win? Because the people they are bullying give them the power to win. Because they have a way of convincing others that what they are saying (or sometimes what they are not saying) is true. Take away their words and you probably think that bullies have no power, but you’d be wrong. A lot of kids at schools all over the U.S. and around the world are being bullied and honestly bullying other kids and not realizing it. We are so focused on teaching our kids not to say mean things and teachers are listening for harsh words, but how many of us parents and teachers are watching our children’s behaviors towards other children?
Now I realize that some bullies get physical but that’s not who we are talking about here. If your child is dealing with physical abuse from a kid at school get the teacher, principal and superintendent involved immediately. No child should ever have to go to school and face physical assault. If the school will not take action then get the police involved.
What I’m talking about are those kids at school who are mean to other kids by doing simple things like, walking by them and intentionally avoiding talking to them or brushing them off when your child asks them to sit with them at lunch, or excluding a child from a group that they once had been a part of. See these simple actions don’t really seem like bullying but they can be seen that way by the child it’s happening to. In situations like these our kids, especially elementary age kids, tend to make up their own stories about why their friend isn’t talking to them or goes and sits with another classmate instead of them. And often times those stories aren’t true and more often than not the child being bullied is making up a story about it being their fault that their friend is acting like they are.
Please hear me out I’m not saying that every kid should be included in every interaction or that your child should feel bad for not including everyone at their birthday party. What I am saying is that we as parents and teachers need to be aware of interactions where exclusion on purpose appears to be happening. Furthermore we also need to be watching for kids that seem like they have low self-esteem. Everyone talks about the warning signs for suicide in kids being sadness or depression, being withdrawn etc but nobody ever talks about the kids that are getting “left out”on purpose. Think about it; if you were constantly left out of meetings at work that you were supposed to be a part of or the block party at home how would that affect your self-esteem? These little guys/girls need to learn that they are not the stories that their minds are telling them.
So what is the best defense against bullies? Having a strong sense of self-worth and a positive mindset so that you don’t believe what you hear, you are able to let the words, or actions, of others roll off of you like rain off a ducks back. How do you do that? You talk to your kids about the voices in their heads and find out what those voices are telling them. Some kids, depending on age, are not even going to realize that they are talking to themselves. You tell them that the only words they should be listening to should be positive and uplifting and not negative and tearing down. The words that the voices that we all use to talk to ourselves are put there by our view of the world around us and by what other people are saying to us. As adults we more often than not can use rationalization to figure out which words we should be listening to and which we should be blowing off, kids don’t usually have that luxury and everything that they are told about themselves, and every action taken against them, is often believed and taken to heart. Finding out what your child is saying to him/herself could be more important than hearing what other people are saying to them