Bullying – What’s a Parent’s Role?

Bullying...School started just over a month ago and, already, I’ve gotten questions from parents about “bullying.” What can a parent do about a child that is being bullied, witnessing the bullying or is even being a bully him or herself? Parents are worried and looking for answers, and the “experts” seem to have thrown their hands in the air because they don’t know what to do.

I know… scary stuff, right?

I think the reason others have not come up with an answer to the problem of bullying is because there is no “quick fix.” There is no one sentence, slogan or catch phrase that will just make it all go away overnight.

Instead of a quick fix, and we know those really just amount to a whole lot of false hope, I can offer you a REAL solution – one that starts with a powerful new perspective.

Rather than asking, “How do I get rid of the bullying quickly?” try asking, “How do I deal with bullying?” Yes, it’s a small change, but an important one because from this new perspective we can begin to tackle this problem realistically.

My answer to our new question, “How do I deal with bullying?” is to change the climate, first at home, so that changes at school can follow.

For the child that’s being bullied

It can be helpful to start by asking, “Why is my child being bullied?” Now, it may be that there is some form of bullying going at home which is contributing to the problem. Remember, we’re coming at this from a whole new perspective, so let’s just take a deep breath and look at this together.

Demanding, dictating, telling, making decisions, thinking your way is the only way… or the only “right” way… all of that can feel a lot like bullying to a young child. And, by the way, it doesn’t matter if you have a sweet, syrupy voice. If it is your way or nothing, and if your kids can’t challenge you or stand up to you, how are they supposed to learn how to challenge or stand up to anyone else?

When these kids go out into the world without having practiced the fine art of non-physical, self-defense, the “Bullies” can spot them a mile away. Mind you, there are varying degrees of bullying and it can come from a variety of sources – from peers to adults, basically anyone looking to influence or intimidate impressionable kids. And these ill-equipped kids are easy for them to spot – they look scared, don’t know how to say NO or to say YES, cannot or choose not to articulate their preferences, or stand up for what they believe, and this makes them easy targets.

Bottom line? Protecting your child from bullying starts at home, and it is well within your power to start making a difference today!

And what about the child that may become the bully?

Now, back to that same child, the one who experiences what is, in effect, bullying… though you as the parent may feel you’re just “looking out of their best interests” or “making things easier” by making the “right” decisions. Imagine that this child decides that no one else is EVER going to push them around, so they decide to become the bully… just to make sure they have the power and, therefore, cannot lose. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense, and I imagine some of us could look back and find instances where we’ve done exactly the same thing. In this scenario, the child doesn’t really choose the bully position – they actually choose NOT TO BE BULLIED by taking that powerful position for themselves. And, based on their experience, they think they’re faced with an Either/Or proposition – with no options available for them in the middle.

Okay. My eyes are open. Now what?

In order for your kids to have the confidence to stand up for themselves, look people in the eye, walk and talk with confidence, express their opinion, support other people’s opinions, walk away from fights, and stand up when necessary, they are going to have to practice – you guessed it – in your home.
And, of course, the parents… yes, that’s you… have to be fully on board to help make it happen.

For help changing the climate in your home to facilitate and support the development of these important life skills, check out our downloadable Parenting On Track™MP3 – Parenting Styles. This audio will help you to immediately change the climate just by learning a little bit about what your parenting style is, and how you can make positive adjustments to it. If you like what you hear, the Parenting On Track™Multi-Media Home Program can help you make even greater changes – changes that can significantly improve the health of your family today and long into the future.

I know bullying is a tough topic, and some of you may have strong opinions you’d like to share. I invite and encourage you to share your thoughts right here using the blog comment forum below. Thanks again for visit and your continued support. Parenting On Track™ is… OK, OK, I say it… on track to reach more families in 2008 than ever before!