Anyone who has spent a few hours on Facebook would notice the number of viral videos involving bullying these days. Adults bullying other adults, teens bullying each other, and even kids bullying other kids — and the videos just go on and on. So it’s quite understandable how bullying might be one of the things that can keep school-kids’ parents up at night. I should know, as I’m one of those parents whose daughter will soon start going to a big school. Aside from hoping and praying to the high heavens that our children do not get bullied, what can parents actually do to prevent bullying cases?
For one, as parents, we can teach and raise our kids to not be bullies. Yes, we may not set out to raise bullies on our own, but there are a few things we can do to ensure that this does not happen at all. Ensuring that our child is not raised as a bully will mean that there’s one less bully in school. And if every parent sets out to be more mindful about this, then perhaps we can make a real big difference not just in schools, but in society as well.
First, what is bullying? Bullying is any act of unwanted and aggressive behavior towards other people. It may come in perceived “harmless” forms such as aggravated teasing and can also include more harmful acts such as verbal or physical attacks, or anything that might ruin another person’s image.
So how can we not raise bullies? Here are a few tips:
Figure out ways to teach empathy.
Simply said, empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, or the capacity to put oneself in another’s position. So finding out ways how to teach your child to relate to others or consider another person’s feelings will allow them to act with the proper respect and regards for others. One way to do this is to always be on the lookout for teachable moments — watch out for bullying instances that might occur in your day to day life or even while watching your kid’s favorite TV programs, and then asking your child questions about how he/she would feel if he/she is in the position of the person bullied. Allowing them to imagine themselves as the underdog will allow them to relate to the bullied and prevent them from bullying others as well.
Try to discipline consistently.
Children respond well to a safe and stable environment, and this includes knowing what is expected of them and what would happen should they break a rule. Implementing simple and easily understandable rules will also help. Instead of imposing a number of rules such as: don’t hit your brother, don’t make a mess, don’t ruin your brother’s stuff, you can instead minimize and generalize it to always respect others and their property. And then provide examples of what it means and also indicate the consequences should he/she fail to do so.
Teach problem-solving techniques.
Kids are likely to mishandle their emotions and conflicts, and us parents can use this to our advantage by using it as a teaching time and helping the child come up with better alternatives than how he/she has behaved.
Another tip is to anticipate possible problems and conflict situations — such as an upcoming family event wherein your child might encounter trying cousins. Prepare your child for such by discussing things to expect and how he/she can handle said cousins and related situations.
Always take bullying reports seriously.
Never, ever brush bullying reports off. As parents, we should always take any bullying reports in schools, in out of school activities, and even in our neighborhood seriously, especially when the report involves our child. Even if your child denies it, try to discern what happened from the information you can get from the other kids and even parents involved. Failure to do so might send a wrong message to your child: that his/her parents will always take his/her side and believe him/her even if he/she is already in the wrong. This means that there will be no consequences for him/her and hence, no reason for him/her to stop his/her bullying behavior.
In such instances, always try to remain calm and listen to the person telling you about the incident. Then confront and talk to your child with a firm yet calm tone. Discuss what happened with your child, and if he/she challenges the truthfulness of the other person, ask him/her what could be the motivation behind it. The important thing is to show your child that you support him/her and yet you will not tolerate his/her bad behavior.
Be good role models.
We’ve heard it a number of times: kids are great imitators. So when we see our kids behaving badly, perhaps it’s time to stop and assess ourselves.
If we want our kids to be happy, well-liked, and well-balanced individuals, then we should strive to be one ourselves. Showing that we empathize and respect other people no matter what we might feel about them or the current situation, will ensure that they’ll grow up to be the same. Ultimately, the best way to not raise bullies is to not be bullies ourselves.
*Originally published in momcenter.com.ph