There’s almost nothing harder than being a parent when your kid gets hurt. Physical pain is certainly hard to cope with, but emotional pain is just as difficult.
When our kids’ feelings are hurt, we hurt for them.
We want to assist them. Help them. Fix it. Maybe even make the other person hurt as much as our kid does. (That’s the “mama bear” phenomenon that generally blindsides us when it occurs.)
But what if we could turn those moments of pain into lessons our kids can take into adulthood? What if we stopped allowing our kids to be victimized and teach them that bad things happen and it doesn’t have to define who they are?
What if there were some simple mindset shifts we could teach our kids to help them respond to negativity without feeling compelled to say they’re being bullied?
Before we get to the strategies, let me clear: Bullying is a real thing.
Having witnessed some pretty epic bullying as a child, both as a victim and sadly, as a perpetrator, I also think bullying has been around for a really long time.
With the advent of social media and all other forms of technology, I also believe the level of emotional and psychological abuse today’s bullying can cause is extensive.
What I’m about to share isn’t about true bullying.
My concern is about our tendency as a society to label any kind of negativity our children may experience as “bullying.”
There’s a distinct difference and if we’re not careful, we may subject our kids to a life of difficulty, heartache, and a victim mentality.
When our kids come to us with a story of someone treating them badly, whether by another student on the school bus (don’t all the terrible things seem to happen on the bus?) or a teacher in the classroom, we have an important choice.
In our effort to protect, love, and even “rescue” our kids from the pain of their present situation, we often neglect the equally important future ramifications of helping them develop coping skills they’ll need when they’re no longer in the “petri dish” of school.
Let me clear about another thing: Kids can be mean. Super nasty and mean.
And while this article isn’t about the “bully,” it does serve us to realize kids act like this for several reasons: 1. They aren’t being taught proper behavior at home. 2. They are just trying to fit in and going with the flow, even if that flow leads them to treat others poorly, it is always easier than trying to stand up for what’s right. 3. They really are a jerk of a kid.
So that doesn’t help much, does it?
Sure, if a child has a difficult home life with no true role models, it’s much easier to talk your child through it.
The other two situations are frustrating.
Because no matter the reason behind bad behavior, when our kid gets hurt, our claws come out and we want to fix it.
So let’s focus less on the perpetrator, and more on your kid.
Whether your kid is being excluded, being teased for some reason, or someone just says something that’s not particularly kind, as parents, we have to think beyond just the present moment.
Considering the bigger picture when they become adults, they’re still going to encounter jerks in the real world. People who say mean things. People who aren’t tactful. People they really don’t like.
And they may have to work with them, for them, or they may marry into a family with them.
Regardless of where they encounter these people, they’re going to need strategies.
And there’s no time like the first time they are struggling with interpersonal conflict to help them learn.
The following mindset shifts are ideas/concepts we can start to say to our children to help them understand how to respond and moreover, how to keep from becoming a victim. Encourage them to come to you first and talk through the following mindsets.
Mindset Shift #1: Your value isn’t about what you do or who you hang out with. Your value is inherent. We all have value simply because we’re human beings.
This is tough. When we’re young, we typically find our value and sense of acceptance from the people around us. If no one is giving that to you, it’s easy to feel like you have nothing to offer the world.
This presents a great opportunity to talk through with your child all the gifts/talents/skills they do possess. And have them tell you, instead of you being the person to give them that acceptance. If they can learn to recognize their own value, they’ll be bulletproof to negative comments.
Mindset Shift #2: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt.
Remind your child that we can’t blame other people for how we feel. And to a large degree, we can’t even control how we feel. But we always, always get to control what we do.
Help your child envision their personal power as a physical scepter. Ask them if they’d ever walk up to this person who makes them feel badly and just hand over the scepter. The answer we’re hoping for here is a big, fat “no!”
Once they get that visual in their mind, tell them every time they let this person ruin their day because of a mean comment or being treated poorly, that’s exactly what they’re doing. Yielding their power to someone who doesn’t deserve to hold it.
Mindset Shift #3: We have absolutely no power to change other people.
That’s why the school system can’t fix these difficult situations either, so storming the school and demanding solutions probably won’t work. (Caveat here: if you’re dealing with a bona fide bullying situation, then by all means, contact the school and work it out.)
Remind your kiddo the only person they have any control over is themselves. The sooner you can help them realize the incredible power that lies in that truth, the better off they’ll be.
By talking to our kids about these kinds of interpersonal “truths,” we are equipping them to cope with difficult situations.
Throughout life, these hurts, frustrations, and “difficult people” are inevitable.
But living a sad, unfulfilled, difficult life as a victim isn’t.