VICKI EDWARDS-BROWN, mum of two teens and founder of Be The Change NZ – a charity that helps prevent bullying — looks at what we can do to support our children in the face of this unwanted behaviour.
“Mummy, Noah is bullying me!” But is he really being a bully? The word ‘bully’ is used a lot these days, so let’s be clear: bullying is any unwanted, intentional behaviour that is repeated. It involves an imbalance of power and is hurtful. It can be physical, verbal, social or cyber.
So, as parents, what can you do to help stop this? First of all, we need to start creating a culture in which bullying is as unacceptable as child abuse. Children are less likely to bully and be bullied when they develop social and emotional skills such as conflict management, the ability to feel and show empathy and the skills to stand up for themselves and others effectively.
Here are a few ideas to ponder upon:
- Role model respectful, caring behaviour – teach values that emphasise appreciation of differences, such as race, religion, sex.
- Acknowledge your child’s issues – it may not be that big a deal that your daughter’s Van Gogh was ruined again by her classmate, but if you do poo-poo it, she will stop talking to you about it. Open communication is vital.
- And likewise, don’t ignore or encourage bullying behaviour in your child by laughing. Explain that it is (to quote Super Nanny in a very posh accent), “unacceptable”.
- Talk openly about bullying from as early as they can talk, so if it does happen, your child won’t be embarrassed to ask for help.
- Focus on expanding your vocabulary when it comes to discussing emotions. The more words children have to explain their feelings, the easier it can be for them to communicate and work through them.
And as they grow older they can become powerful upstanders (someone who stands up in defence of others), so empower them by creating opportunities for them to be kind to others by giving or helping people – take them with you when you collect for a charity, ask them to help bring hand-picked flowers to a friend, suggest they draw a picture on a get-well card.