Many parents worry about their kids being bullied, or if they have one with bullying tendencies what to do about it. Many people out there think that we are making too much of a fuss about it, that we should leave kids to their own devices. I tend to disagree. I remember the name of the person who tormented me in school. You see, she used to call me “Stork ” because I was taller than most kids in my class and had very long legs. I didn’t like it but in those days you just had to ignore it.
So, how do you know if your child is being bullied?
Peggy Moss, a nationally known expert on bullying and a tireless advocate for the prevention of hate violence,and also an author of the book Say Something, Our Friendship Rules, co-authored by Dee Dee Tardiff, and One of Us gives us some advice here…
There’s a good chance your kid won’t walk up to you and say, “I’m getting teased and bullied at school, the kids are calling me names.” Instead, it’s going to manifest itself by your child saying, “I don’t want to go to school today.” If this seems to be happening a lot, consider the possibility that bullying might be the reason behind the sick days.
For boys, one classic symptom is that they are teased so much about being gay or being atypical that they’re terrified to go to the bathroom. Since there’s only one way in and one way out of a bathroom, it’s an ideal place to tease other kids. Boys who are bullied often won’t go all day. If your kid races home and goes to the bathroom every day after school it could mean that there’s a bullying problem.
These are all possible signals that your child might be the target of teasing at school. As a parent, teacher or health care worker, add “Bullying” to your radar when you’re trying to figure out what’s going on with a child—add the possibility that your kid is getting tormented at school. Peggy says that the injury is real when kids get teased. Unchecked, it can be devastating – Source: EmpoweringParents.com.
Tips for parents whose child is being bullied
Listen with compassion. Be present to your kiddo especially when strong feelings come up. Whether a child is feeling sad, angry or scared it always helps to have a parent there who is listening with compassion and is showing genuine love. Practice compassionate listening by bringing your attention away from your head and moving it into your heart space. It’s about letting go of judgements about the situation and just seek to understand. If you show anger at the person who is bullying your child it will only make matters worse.
Let your child talk about it. As I’ve already mentioned, listen in a non-judgmental way about their experience and about the teaser. Let your kiddo talk. Some personality styles will try to solve the problem, however this is not helpful. Just ask them: “What happened? How did that make you feel?”
Don’t assume anything. Yes, that’s right. Don’t assume that your kid has done something to bring on the teasing. Teasing isn’t always logical, and for your kid it doesn’t matter why – it just matters that it’s happening. Therefore, don’t say, “What did you do that made them tease you?” That’s not going to help.
Ask “Cup emptying” questions. Linda Kavelin-Popov has a great strategy she teaches in her book, The Families Virtues Guide, for allowing your child to empty their cup of feelings. Linda says that good cup-emptying questions can be very general, or they can zero in on the feelings your child is expressing. For example, if your child is crying you just ask, “Johnny, tell me, what are those tears about”? Here’s some examples of general questions that will support a child to empty their cup:
- Child: I’m never going to play with Peter again.
- Parent: Oh?
- Child: I hate him, and I’m never going to play soccer with him again.
- Parent: What do you hate about playing with Peter?
- Child: Peter is mean when he can’t have the ball.
- Parent: How is he mean?
- Child: He’s always yelling at me and then he pushes me over.
- Parent: How is that for you?
- Child: Embarrassing. All my friends are watching.
It’s about letting your kiddo fully express their experience of a situation and not about rescuing them, “Do you want me to talk to him”, or preaching to them, “Well he’s in your team for practice games, so you don’t have a choice”. Also as children often do, if they answer, “I don’t know”, to a question, just say “What don’t you know”. I’m sure you’re starting to see now that it’s about asking questions that start with the words, “Tell me, how and what”.
I hope as a parent, these ideas and tips will support and encourage you when your child is being bullied. I invite you to use cup-emptying questions when you see your kiddo or other family member expressing strong feelings of hurt or anger. If you’re looking for more tips you might like to join my Facebook Parenting Group