As a parent, you want to protect your child from bullies. It’s nearly as painful for you to hear your child’s accounts of being verbally or physically attacked as it is for them to endure it.
We Know What Doesn’t Work
But what I’ve noticed is our confidence, as a society, rests heavily on institutions to prevent bullying – especially schools. And schools do what they can. But are they successful? Here’s what the official government website stopbullying.gov has to say:
“Many prevention programs have been tested in schools with modest results. Others have failed to make a difference. Researchers are still working on solutions to this complex problem.”
Translation: Nothing really works and they don’t know what will. Parents cannot confidently expect school officials will resolve their child’s bullying issue and all will be well. We know they can’t. They’ve said so. Insisting won’t make it magically happen.
One of the reasons it won’t happen is because, unless we can get our school districts on board with the systematic shunning of a bully to shut down their entire social structure within the institution (I suggest this tongue in cheek), behavior modification won’t get to the heart of the issue: the heart.
Behaviors, like words, proceed from what’s in a person’s heart. As parents, we know how hard it is for us to mold our children’s selfishly-bent hearts. How can we expect a social institution to do that better than we can? Moreover, do we really want them meddling there?
What Can Parents Do?
My kids are grown now, but if another child laid an aggressive hand on my child, I would want the school to suspend that kid immediately. (Provided, and based on the teacher’s report, my child did nothing to provoke them as a bully himself. I don’t automatically assume my kid is pure as the driven snow.) You bet I’d want the school to do what it can to help my child.
And depending on the severity of the incident, I might campaign to have the bully transferred to another school or investigate what juvenile-legal recourse we had against him. Furthermore, I might get on the phone with some parents and organize my own social shunning of that kid. Momma don’t play!
But because Momma here don’t play, before any bully had the opportunity to come after my kids, I worked on teaching them coping strategies and resilience.Here’s a fact. Your child’s first bully is likely to be their own older sibling or cousin. Click To TweetHere’s a fact. Your child’s first bully is likely to be their own older sibling or cousin. Kids start hitting, biting, and snatching toys away from each other at a very early age. You cannot wait to protect your child from bullies until they go to school if you have them in your house.
A Personal Story
My daughter’s first bullies were her two older brothers. When she was 3, they were 6 and 8. They absolutely loved to push her little buttons because, when they did, she went off like a rocket – yelling and crying at volume. Her brothers reveled in their power to make this happen!
My behavior modification attempts with the boys had mixed results. They’d repent until they needed their next fix of little female drama. So it was important to teach my little girl some life skills:
- Decision-making: to ignore what was tolerable and report what was not.
- Self-control: to conceal her annoyance and drain the fun from her response.
- Assertiveness: to stand up for herself with dignity and calm or walk away
- Consider the source: decide to give grace because her brothers were (fill in the blank)
Being trained in these life skills from an early age helped her navigate the cruel world of middle school girls when the time came. It’s not that her feelings were never hurt. They certainly were. But she knew how to cope with it. Her skills sharpened by practice.
(I recently realized this is exactly the way God parents His children. God doesn’t spare His children from suffering. Instead, according to 1 Peter 3:21, He provided a model of how to conduct ourselves through it. Food for thought there.)
Do Your Part To Protect Your Child From Bullies
Don’t rely solely on schools to keep your children guarded against bullies. They’re not up to it. Yes, expect reasonable support, but don’t neglect to give your kids foundational life skills necessary to cope with the range of rudeness, meanness, and legit bullying. (This article from The HuffPost is instructive on the distinctions.)
Let the schools do what they can do. You do what you can do to protect your child from bullies, too. An effective but neglected strategy is to give them good old-fashioned coping skills.
To read about other life skills your child needs, check out this article on Why Good Moms Don’t Try To Raise Happy Kids.