Are you one of the adults who say that you know all about bullying because you remember what it was like when you were a kid? I don’t think that’s true and I’ll tell you why. What you experienced as a kid is kind of like the bullying that I experienced on the farm when Miracle the cat scratched my nose. I was sad and it hurt me and after that, I tried to stay away from her because I didn’t want the bullying to happen to me again. I was afraid of her but I learned how to keep out of her way. It didn’t make me feel good but it didn’t break my spirit either.
When you were a kid, maybe somebody tripped you or took your lunch money or pulled your hair. Maybe somebody called you a name and you felt really sad. Guess what? Bullying is different now. It is different because now it’s not one or two kids being mean. It’s a whole network of kids being mean.
Think about it this way. Have you ever been in a big crowd of people… maybe going to a sports arena or on a busy street in a city? Think about how you would feel if each one of the people in that crowd said something mean to you. Maybe they said you were ugly or fat or thin or gay or stupid. If you kept hearing the same unkind words to you over and over again, you might start to believe them. Then when you got home, they followed you and kept saying the same mean things and you couldn’t escape them. That is kind of like the kind of bullying kids experience now.
Well, that’s kind of what kids go through because of technology when they are bullied. There are never ending times when kids are put down and told that they are worthless and that nobody cares about them. They aren’t adults and they don’t understand that difficult times will pass and that they will feel better about themselves again.
When they hit rock bottom, so many kids want to escape their pain anyway possible. We all need to make a difference for those kids by letting them know how much we care and we need to do that right away. We need to stand up for them and help to stop the bullying. We need to do that before it’s too late for them and for the people who love them.
How you react to conflict will teach your children how to react to conflict when they encounter it. The lessons given by your example can make or break the way your children see and deal with life’s ups and downs.
When a child experiences conflict, he or she needs to understand the facts. Painting a “rosy” picture of a bad situation will not help a child feel safe or less worried.
Parents can’t nor should they want to shield their children totally from life’s realities. Why? When parents help guide children through appropriate steps in dealing with conflict, the children become more capable of dealing with conflict on their own.
Conflict comes in many forms. Children may see conflict on TV or they may experience bullying at school. They may hear unkind words on the bus or see physical attacks on people they know. They may experience the conflict between two parents leading up to and following a divorce.
Conflict Resolution: Teaching Children
Teaching children how to handle conflict must be age appropriate. A good way to begin to teach children will depend on finding out how much they know about a situation. A good open-ended question might be, “What do you know about…?” The next step should be asking other open-ended questions such as, “Why do you think that is happening or what do you think can be done to help?”
Acknowledge their worry and concerns. Offer comments like, “I understand that you are worried about… but remember that…” The goal is that you want to do what it takes to make your child feel more secure about a difficult or conflictive situation. You must understand that children are not comforted when parents are not honest with them.
Reassure your children honestly and age appropriately. Your children will watch your reactions and your feelings. It is important for you to share “to a degree” your feelings about a situation with them. If you are anxious, you will pass your anxiety on to your children. Saying something like, “That makes me feel sad too. Let’s try to think of something we can do to make things better.”
Understand that your children may be in possession of misinformation. It is your responsibility as a parent to clear up their confusion without being judgmental or defensive.
Children often see things as black or white. They personalize things that happen and worry about their own wellbeing.
Don’t assume that because you had one conversation with your child it will be sufficient. Leave the door open for further conversations and expect some of the same questions or comments to be repeated.
Children must feel safe and secure if they are to grow into emotionally healthy adults. As difficult as it may be for you, you need to put aside your own baggage for the sake of your children.