My friend Saranya brought up this concern this morning… Her 5-year old son was falling into the victim category of bullying ..more and more frequently!
This prompted me to write about it since it is a more serious concern than we imagine. This recent article from Forbes says it all!
However, these are some of my personal observations which come from raising two girls:
1. Bullying is real. Children face their own set of problems just like adults do. DO NOT brush it away as trivial. This can permanently damage your child’s ability to communicate.
2. Exercise your discretion to know the difference between skirmishes and quarrels and serious bullying in school or on the playground. A fair amount of disputes with peers is really a good thing for your child. It builds your child’s ability to logically substantiate his actions and build his defenses. Let them be! For your good and their own!
3. Lay down a binding rule on your child to ALWAYS exercise the option of verbal arbitration FIRST! This will require a lot of patience and emulation from you for his little mind to grasp this concept. It will improve your child’s self-control and give him time to evaluate his surroundings consciously!
4. If the above does not work, tell your child to talk to you. This is when you have to LISTEN and not just hear!
5. Talk to the bully yourself. In most cases, they are the ones who need help. In one recent instance, an older brother of my daughter’s friend was constantly bullying her. I sat back one day at the playground to observe what was going on. I soon realized that this guy was of a different age group ( 10-11 years) and was forced to play with younger children( 4-7 years) because he did not have company of his own age. He was frustrated with their relatively slow co-ordination skills and turned into a bully.
6. If the above still does not help- promise your child that you will talk to the bully’s parents. And keep it! The general expectation is that parents
will be defensive. But not so with all of them. Some of them even welcome your suggestions. Make sure you go with a couple of good ones. Keep in mind that you are talking about another child just like your own and communicate positively. Nobody likes to see their child being put down.
7. If none of the above works, teach your child to hit back! Not standing up to themselves will be seen as a sign of weakness. Not only can the bullying worsen; even the number of bullies can increase. Even so, different children will need different thresholds. My younger daughter has really taken this to heart. She hits back and doesn’t give a damn about the consequences. She is fine on her own. The same is not true for my older daughter. She is extremely worried that the bully AND the other friends will not play with her thereafter. She tends to step back. Respect the child’s personality and stretch yourself to meet their needs.
8. You might be surprised to know that sometimes your child is the bully. The group she is with makes all the difference. Talk to her and let her know that it is not right.Use stories or make up your own- it really works.
It is definitely a huge challenge to raise kids with balance. Especially when we tend to lose our own so often. However, remember that this is a very impressionable age. And, remember that they have only you to fall back on.
Devishobha is the founder of Kidskintha- a global parenting and education collective, and the host of the global virtual conferences hosted on the platform. You can also find her voice on the Huffington Post, Mother.ly, Entrepreneur, Lifehack, TinyBuddha, Thought Catalog and many other publications.