By Traci L. Carman
Bullying is a huge problem in schools, and shows up in every age group. A “no bully zone” starts at home. How does your child feel about himself? What are the messages he is getting from you, from siblings, teachers, coaches, etc.? How many positive vs. negative words are shared at home? Is there more of a focus on what is not happening the way you want it, or is there plenty of appreciation and acknowledgement for successes and growth?
We all have an “inner critic” in our head. Do you ever hear that voice that says, “Why did you do that? You just messed it up!” or “You’ll never be able to get that accomplished.” That is your inner critic. That voice was developed from years of comments that were not building you up. You are in a position now to feed or not feed that inner critic in your child.
If you want to begin creating a “No Bully Zone” for your child, here are three simple ways to get started:
Tip #1: Today … sit down with your child (or take a walk or bike ride) and ask him how things are going at school and if he ever gets teased or feels badly by how he is treated. (You need to know about this, if it’s happening.) Be sure to listen with your heart. It may seem that he is being too sensitive or he is hurt by things that “shouldn’t” be a big deal. That doesn’t matter. Right now, what matters is that you listen and support him in unloading everything he is willing to unload. This is his truth, and it is valid. (Do the same thing to find out if he is bullying other children. It’s just the other side of the same coin.)
Tip #2: If there is nothing going on at school (or other extracurricular areas), go on to Tip #3. If there is stuff going on, depending on your child’s age, look at your options. It may be he needs to get some guidance in how to speak up for himself. It may be that you need to go to a teacher or staff member and get some adult support on his behalf. Write down all of the options, and then choose a starting point. How do you advocate for your child (whether they are on the giving or receiving end of bullying)?
Tip #3: Take an honest look at what you are feeding into your child emotionally (even if bullying is not an issue, this is always a great exercise to do). Are you building up or tearing down your child’s self-esteem? How often do you say, “I love you.” “You did a great job!” “I’m proud of you.” “I know that was hard, and you did it anyway. Way to go!” “I’m here for you.” How often do you say, “Why isn’t your room clean?” “Did you do your homework?” “Your forgot to feed the dog again.” “If you don’t bring up your grades, you’re going to be grounded.” What conversations are you having with your child? Are you building up or tearing down his self-esteem?
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many things we can do to support our child’s emotional well-being. It is easy to get stuck in producing results and getting things done. If we miss out on supporting the emotional needs of our children, however, the results can be catastrophic. Bullying is on the rise. Low self-esteem is on the rise. Teenage suicide is on the rise. We cannot change everything for our children, but we can change how we show up for them. Start there and you will be amazed at how much your power as a parent opens up.