I remember when my daughter Michaela was 4 and playing in an indoor playing area. The place was filled with kids of different ages and backgrounds. She was enjoying various play equipment and making her way around the playground.
I was observing her, and I noticed this older bigger boy (6 or 7) who had started to interfere with her playtime. Michaela would want to play on a certain play area, and the boy would block the way. My girl was pretty smart and understood that it was a big play area. When this boy started blocking one play area, she would just leave him and go to another part of the playground. As she would leave and head for a different area, though, this boy would follow. Once again, this boy was blocking her way to a different part of the play area.
I was looking around for the boy's parents, which were nowhere to be found, and I was starting to get frustrated. My girl was avoiding this boy, but it was clear that he made her to be his target.
Michaela once again left the boy who was blocking her path and headed for the slide. This boy, who was watching her, went to the bottom of the slide to prevent her from using it. Well, I knew it. I stood up and walked over to the boy and stared into his eyes. With a non-direct threat I said in a firm tone, "You would be wise to find some other place to play." I assume a bolt of fear ran through the boy. He quickly got up and rushed to the other side of the playground.
For the rest of the playtime, my girl had no problems. This boy made it his priority to stay clear from Michaela's space. If she started to head to an area where he was at, he would quickly decide to play somewhere else.
We all wish we can be there for our kids if we see someone bullying them. The problem is -- most of us can't. There are times when we leave our kids in school or in some other event. Granted that bullying is more common in elementary school than it is in high school, both should still be taken seriously. We need to be prepared and also do our best to prepare our kids. Now every case is different, but here are some areas we can look at.
1. Have a clear communication with your child.
That requires you to have a relationship where you can express emotions. I would suggest that you start early. If your child is talking to you about how they feel when they are in first grade, then chances are higher when they are in high school that they will feel safe to talk to you again.
This is where a lot of parents tend to be disconnected. When our kids are small, we are teaching them how to relate and how to build relationships. For them to be able to share their deepest joys and pains when they are older, we will have to listen to what they feel is important when they are younger. The deeper the relationship, the quicker your kid will come to you when they have been bullied.
2. Observe your child's behavior.
There must be a reason if they seem aloof or withdrawn. Ask them what the problem is. Of course, for them to share, you need to have done a good job in point 1.
3. Make sure your kids can defend themselves.
In bullying, 5 percent of girls and 8 percent of boys are bullied physically. When I was younger, I was bullied physically, so I tend to want to prepare my kids for that.
I do not encourage my kids to fight. I do not tolerate my kids fighting or hitting each other. If someone starts pushing them, nonetheless, I want them to be able to defend themselves. That is why my kids are taking Taekwondo lessons. We have found a school where the teacher emphasizes respect and self-discipline. Also, one of the side effects is that it helps kids to focus.
I know some of you may not feel comfortable having your kids do martial arts. Do what you feel is best for your kids. Ensure that you and your kids have a game plan if someone starts hitting them. They need to be prepared if it starts happening, and it is our job to prepare them.
4. Teach your kids to help others who are being bullied.
Studies show that most kids empathize with others who are being bullied (girls more so than boys). At the same time, there is a much lower percentage of those who are willing to help out a bullied kid. This is because as the kids get older, they have less empathy and their willingness to help also drops.
5. Talk to your kids on what to do if they see some other kids being bullied.
If more kids would take a stand against bullying, less of it would happen. But our kids need to be taught what to do (the younger the better) to help those who are struggling to defend themselves.
As I have said, I was physically bullied. Most of that took place while I was in elementary. So when I was in high school, I started to lift weights. One of the main reasons was so others would not bully me, and in the most part, it worked. People surely think twice about starting a fight with someone who can bench 250 pounds.
I was a pretty big kid when I was a junior and senior in high school. In the weight room was a ripe place for older and bigger kids to bully younger and smaller ones. When I had to pick lifting partners, I would pick two of the smallest and weakest kids (we should have only picked one, but I needed two because one of them couldn't spot me alone). I wanted to keep them close to me, so they wouldn't be bullied. I was one of the strongest kids in the room, and I would not allow other kids to verbally or physically bully them.
I am not saying that your kids need to lift weights. I am saying that our kids should be able to stand in for someone who needs help.
Now there are other types of bullying, and I would suggest you read more about it. Talking to school teachers and the faculty can be appropriate. Also, possibly talking to the parents of the bully could be beneficial. But take it case by case.
Cyber bullying is another situation. You need to know what your kids are doing online. If you have read and followed my points in my article about kids and the Internet, you will know what is happening to your kids online if you are keeping tabs with their social accounts.
Likewise, keep the line of communication open while any type of bullying is taking place. Make adjustments along the way. Don't be blindsided or leave your kids unprepared.
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Dustin Campbell is a proud father of three active children. As a family, they lived in the Philippines, Thailand, and currently the United States. Dustin has been speaking and teaching internationally on a wide range of topics for the past 20 years, including on relationships and marriage. Dustin and his wife Haydee, with their beautiful kids, currently reside in North Carolina.
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