Bullying can be overcome
Your child returns from school. She hides her face and is reluctant to talk about her day.
Concerned and confused, you probe further and are shocked after hearing an appalling account of what took place in the school hallway just hours earlier. She had been bullied and now feels shame, embarrassment and isolation.
Bullying can have a profound and destructive effect on a young person’s social development and sense of self-worth. It happens in our schools every day, and the above is a typical and rather mild example of the aftermath of bullying.
The sad part? Only some children and teens talk about it. Many bully victims push through their daily routines. But the psychological wounds cause them to become as small and unnoticeable as possible in efforts to avoid being a target of the relentless bully.
Bullying is nothing new. Most of you have likely experienced it and can recall what happened to this day. After all, emotional memories are the ones that stick, either good or bad. Those painful stories can leave us feeling ashamed, because a part of us still believes we did something to invoke the bully.
Bullying takes place in many forms: verbal, physical, cyber, sexual and bias. Bullying is an act that can involve force, control or intimidation. Control over another person is simply an illusion based on perception.
Whoa. What? Whenever I say this to a client, they often respond with a look of skepticism. The one who feels controlled will react in a manner that reinforces and empowers the bully. Typically, bullies picks their victims based on how quickly and likely they are to react. Once you make the choice to disrupt that reaction pattern, bullies no longer perceive that they are in control.
So how can this be relayed to your children?
- Remind them that they hold the power in how to respond to the bully. Many times, children confuse feelings with actions. If they feel hurt, angry or scared, the natural reaction is to lash back accordingly.
- Point out the difference between feeling and acting on those feelings. Listen to them and validate their feelings when they are upset, then empower them to own their actions.
- Practice role-playing alternative reactions. Bullies will get bored with their target after they have “poked the bear” so many times without a reaction.
- Better yet? Return the bully’s action with a compliment! Brooks Gibbs offers several video examples of this for students to watch, in efforts to empower the youth at brooksgibbs.com.
A final point worth mentioning is that bullies often have heart-breaking stories that have created a distorted sense of self-worth. They might feel more important when there is someone else to control. The last reaction that a person who bullies expects is a gesture of kindness in return. Thus, the real power lies in the actions of each individual being bullied and how they can redirect the sails and break the cycle.
If you have a child experiencing bullying, listen, remind them of their value, empower them to own their actions and to practice their ability to influence others in positive ways. THEY can help protect themselves from the bullying from within while gaining strength to face challenges of life’s road ahead. Counseling and support from family and school officials are also invaluable for a bullying victim. Communicate with your child’s teacher and ask your child questions.
Don’t let your child go through it alone.