Bullying? Kevin Rudd has got it wrong too!
Recently the Prime Minister of Australia was asked for comment about the increasing incidents of bullying in schools… His simplistic solution to this endemic problem?… “Parents of children who are being bullied should speak to the parents of the child who is bullying.”
WRONG … that is just wrong.
It is obvious from his comment that he never had to deal with bullying. Parents should never, ever, ever get involved directly in their children’s arguments. Parents are far too emotional and each parent thinks they are right! To confront another parent about their child bullying another child challenges that parent’s belief in their own parenting. Ever heard the saying, “Apples don’t fall far from the tree?”
When my son David was in Year 1 another parent accused him of bullying her child. The parent of the so called ‘bullied child’ phoned me every night complaining about something my son had done to her son. It wasn’t until I went to the school one day to watch what was going on, after thinking that I was raising “Attila the Hun’, and lying awake at night believing that I was the worst parent in the world, that I discovered it was her child who was bullying mine!
All of my three children have been bullied. David was bullied because he was different. Both my daughters have experienced emotional and cyber-bullying because we are raising them to be leaders not followers, the outcome … the tall poppy syndrome in full flight!
But I was determined that my children would not become ‘victims’. Although it broke my heart to watch them go through the pain of exclusion and bullying, at the same time I wanted them to create their own solutions, empowering them to develop effective strategies to grow up to be strong, self assured, confident and self directed young people.
What I discovered in the process was that there is no ‘quick fix’ to bullying. That is the problem with bullying. Most adults don’t want to deal with it. It’s too hard. They often down play it, try to gloss over it, or won’t take responsibility for it, because it is often so complicated.
But here is the deal, there is no one magic solution to bullying, because bullying doesn’t just exist in the school yard. Bullies also operate in the work place and in tertiary institutions, places where you, as a parent, have no power or effect. If it happens when your child is at school, at least you have the opportunity to instil strategies that will help them for the rest of their lives.
Bullying is very sneaky! And it doesn’t always take place out on in the open. Other than outward physical violence, emotional and cyber-bullying are often difficult to identify. And there is a difference between ‘teasing’ and ‘bullying’. Teasing helps children develop a healthy self resilience, bullying however can be very destructive.
So why is bullying such a huge issue now? You only have to look around you to see why…
- Reality TV shows like Biggest Loser, Big Brother and Survivor celebrate bullying and encourage ‘tribal exclusion’ so the ‘winner’ wins!
- Judges on shows such as ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and Australian Idol think it’s ok to belittle contestants and make creativity a competition.
- The media focus on gossip and innuendo and jostle for ratings of ‘celebrity’ stories. Have you read some of the gossip magazines?… most of what they write is untrue but they are, in effect, encouraging people to spread rumours and talk about people behind their backs!
- Sports coaches are often so focused on ‘winning’ they encourage their players to ‘take out the opposition key player’ to win trophies, teaching children that its ok to do what ever you have to in order to win!
- Parliamentary members – the leaders of our country – berate the opposing members calling each other names and looking to score points.
- And at the same time, there so many families are in crisis right now. Often times, children have few boundaries and are left to their own devices because parents are pulled in so many direction – and so they seek attention anyway they can get it.
… that’s why bullying is such a big deal right now!
So in order to ensure that your child grows up to be confident, self assured and with the skills to deal with bullying at any stage in their lives, you need to look at the issue of bullying in a holistic way.
Here are some of the strategies that we have used in overcoming bullying in our world.
Know your child. If you think something is not right, then act on that. Many children won’t tell you they are being bullied, or they try and gloss over it. However, intuition and parenting go hand in hand. You must be physically, emotionally, spiritually and intuitively fit to get the messages. If there is something different in your child’s behaviour or manner, investigate it. Become a sleuth; don’t put everything down to ‘just hormones’. If your intuition is screaming at you … listen.
Know what your child is doing in their bedroom! Check their mobile phones,Face book and MSN – regularly. If your child is under the age of 18 they do not have the right to privacy but you have the right to check if they are safe! Best of all, ensure computers are out in the open, either in a commonly used area of the house or somewhere where you can monitor their computer behaviour. Talk to them often about appropriate use of texting and MSN. Don’t assume that because they can ‘use’ texting and MSN, they know how to ‘use it appropriately’.
- Know your child. If you think something is not right, then act on that. Many children won’t tell you they are being bullied, or they try and gloss over it. However, intuition and parenting go hand in hand. You must be physically, emotionally, spiritually and intuitively fit to get the messages. If there is something different in your child’s behaviour or manner, investigate it. Become a sleuth; don’t put everything down to ‘just hormones’. If your intuition is screaming at you … listen.
- Know what your child is doing in their bedroom! Check their mobile phones,Face book and MSN – regularly. If your child is under the age of 18 they do not have the right to privacy but you have the right to check if they are safe! Best of all, ensure computers are out in the open, either in a commonly used area of the house or somewhere where you can monitor their computer behaviour. Talk to them often about appropriate use of texting and MSN. Don’t assume that because they can ‘use’ texting and MSN, they know how to ‘use it appropriately’.
- Know your child’s personality. I have three children, all very distinct in their personalities and very different. Each time there was an incident of bullying; there was also an opportunity for my child to learn something about themselves.We have two sayings in our house. 1. You create your own reality 2. In order for things to change first I must change. So if something happens over and over again, what is it that you can do to change it? In the initial stages, turn the bulling incidents into opportunities to talk and discuss alternative reactions. It is very important that you as a parent model appropriate behaviour. Don’t buy into it. Don’t name call. Instead look at creating alternative empowering alternatives. It may be – don’t hang out by yourself; or look around you to see other friends rather than focusing on the ones causing the problem. Perhaps your child is too judgmental of their friends or expect too much from friendships. Try and problem solve in a non-reactive and non-judgmental manner, asking questions rather than offering opinions.
- Don’t let your child become a victim. Help your child to develop true confidence. Confidence comes from within. So children need to be given the opportunities to experience success early by making their own mistakes and learning from them. Ensure your child is given ample opportunity to problem solve, whether that be solving time management issues or which TV shows to watch. Get them involved in activities outside of school. Something they can enjoy and master, whether it be sport, dance, martial arts or something similar. Find something that allows them to not only master, but also make friends outside of school.
- Stop telling your child they are special or deserving of happiness or success. This sets a child up for emptiness. Happiness and success are earned through setting intent then creating strategies to achieve it.(ie: desire + hard work = achievement) Bullies bully because they feel disempowered, so they turn to something that creates a ‘buzz’ for them. A victim of bullying often feels disempowered because they have often never experienced true achievement. The combination of the two is like pouring petrol on a fire!
- If you are suspecting that your child is being bullied start a dialogue with the school. Ask them to become a partner with you in this. It is so easy to become incredibly emotional in this scenario, but you need to work with the teachers at the school to develop strategies. Make sure the initial conversations are being written down and you are both on the same page in developing strategies. Be open minded. Sometimes there are two sides to every story, and you need to be aware of both.
- When all else fails know when it is time for you to step in and take the burden from your child. Sometimes you need to allow them to be the child and you to be the adult. I remember one night when my daughter was distraught, begging me to let her change schools because of a series of bullying and exclusion experiences (It was then that I realised that girls are masters at bullying!).
I had reached the end of my ‘solution abilities’ and run out of ideas. I told her that she had done her best to create solutions, but now it was time for the adults to take over and it was time her mother and her teachers become more involved directly with the issue. But it’s a fine line, because often when adults become involved it can inflame the situation. It is essential that you remain calm and focused, listen to the suggestions of the teachers agreeing to do what is best for your child’s well being. But be confident and direct in offering your opinions as well. Trust your intuition.
Bullying is an endemic problem because so many people are lost, living a life that is not giving them the joy, happiness, success or any number of other states we strive for.
Bullies bully because it is the only power they have in a world that doesn’t give them any power. Control in a world that is out of their control. If your child experiences bullying… stand with them, help them develop the strategies to overcome the feelings of powerlessness and don’t let bullying become a way of life… ever…for anybody!