Are you wondering how to protect your child from being bullied? Refer to the 12 step guide that will help you empower your child against bullying including cyberbullying.
What is bullying?
StopBullying.gov defines “bullying” as repeated unwanted, aggressive behavior in which a child or teen uses a real or perceived power imbalance, such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity, to control or harm other kids.
It can include anything from spreading rumors to name-calling to physical aggression, but this is not simply being rude or unkind once. Essentially, Bullying is a repeated, purposeful abuse of power, meant to cause harm to the other person.
Why would a young person do such a thing? Because it gives her power. We all need to feel powerful in our lives. If we don’t have access to power in healthy ways, it can be hard to resist using it in unhealthy ways. And for a child or teen who often feels powerless in her life, abusing power by bullying can feel as potent as a drug.
If he’s hurting inside, it can help him feel a little better for a short time. If someone has humiliated, threatened, or hurt him, those feelings often threaten to overwhelm his psyche, and he lashes out, wanting to humiliate, threaten or hurt someone else. Unfortunately, then, kids who are hurting often hurt other kids.
Can you bully-proof your child? Unfortunately, no. There have always been hurting people who act out by hurting others, and your child’s path will sometimes cross with theirs. And all children want to get their way, which means they will sometimes abuse power; that’s developmentally normal and short-lived in a context where they’re also developing empathy. Your goal is not to insulate your child, but to support him to develop the awareness and skills to protect himself when necessary, and to seek help when he’s in over his head.
Bullying behavior begins in preschool and gains momentum as kids grow. Depending on which survey you read, between 40 and 80 percent of middle schoolers admit to participating in bullying behavior, so clearly our culture bears some responsibility for the pervasiveness of bullying. Many kids describe themselves as having been subjected to bullying but also as having bullied others. For this reason,
Restorative justice circles, conflict resolution training and transforming the culture of a school have all been proven to be more effective approaches to reduce bullying than targeting bullies with punitive punishment.
Unfortunately, our school cultures are still struggling to implement effective approaches, and the situation is getting worse in many communities. The interaction of bullying and social media seems to have increased the psychological danger, so that kids feel they don’t have a safe refuge, and more teens and even middle schoolers are committing suicide in response to bullying. Recent research shows that long-term consequences of bullying include higher risk for depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse and self-destructive behavior.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can help your child develop the skills to stand up to bullying behavior, and you can keep him from becoming a bully. How?
12 Ways to Empower Your Child Against Bullying
1. Model compassionate, respectful relationships from the time your child is small.
As Alice Miller, author of Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, wrote: “If children have been accustomed from the start to having their world respected, they will have no trouble later in life recognizing disrespect directed against them in any form and will rebel against it on their own.”
The most effective way to protect children from bullying, and from becoming bullies, is to make sure they grow up in loving, respectful relationships, rather than relationships that use power or force to control them. Children learn both sides of every relationship, and they can act on either one. If you spank, your child will learn that physical violence is the way to respond to interpersonal problems. Research has repeatedly established that physically disciplining a child is associated with more bullying behaviors.
In fact, any discipline methods that use power over a child teach him to use power over others, or to let others use power over him. Punishment is often perceived by children as adults using force to get their way, which teaches them that bullying is okay. Don’t worry, you don’t need that kind of discipline. For compassionate discipline that works, see the section on Peaceful Discipline on this website.