Shop the fall collection ➔

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.

Rebecca Undem

Rebecca Undem yearns to live in a world with bold, inspired people who aren’t afraid of making mistakes; with a forever-full cup of coffee in her hand, preferably nut-flavored. A professional development expert with nearly a decade of experience, she’s a highly sought after speaker, traveling the country, sharing her message of how to live BIG regardless of what you do for a profession or where you happen to be. When she’s not writing or developing solutions to help individuals, businesses, and communities think bigger and challenge the status quo, you can find Rebecca cleaning up a variety of messes made by her three young children or her farming husband. Her personal memoir How Mommy Got Her Groove BackTM was released in early fall of 2016. Visit www.rebeccaundem.com for actionable and inspirational tips for getting your own groove back!  

It’s Okay to Say No to the Promposal

In: Kids, Teen
Boy holding pink sign saying "Prom with me?"

Promposals are cute.  But, even for the sweetest questions, it’s okay if the answer is not yes. I have more boys than girls at my house so the whole meet the boy asking your girl out with a gun posts don’t sit well with me. Boys and girls have an equally hard time negotiating friendships and relationships in high school, and I care equally for both. A young man spent some time, told his friends, made a cute sign, and planned to ask my daughter to a dance. A friend of my daughters mentioned he might ask (and even made...

Keep Reading

I Wipe the Slides

In: Kids, Motherhood
boy on slide

I want you to have the most fun possible at your tiny playground stars program, so I wipe the slides. I don’t want you to have a meltdown if your clothes get wet while I’m gone, so I wipe the slides. I want to have three precious hours of only managing your little sister, so I wipe the slides. RELATED: I’d Rather Serve My Kids Than Have Them be “Self-Sufficient” I don’t want you to feel embarrassed by a big reaction to wet clothes when I’m not there to help you, so I wipe the slides. I want you to...

Keep Reading

One Day You’ll Outgrow Being My Little Boy—But Not Today

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mother and two sons back-to-school picture, color photo

One day you will come home after your first day of a new school year and not wish to share a single thing. Not today. Today, you got into the car and talked non-stop about every second of your day. I was delighted!  One day you will not have countless first-day forms for me to sign and return the next day. Not today. I signed my name at least four times. I was happy to grant permission for you to play sports, learn algebra, and do whatever else I gave my permission for.  One day you will not allow me...

Keep Reading

The Sports Mom Shows Up For Her Kids, No Matter What

In: Kids, Motherhood
Youth baseball game

We’re nearing the end of club baseball/softball season, and the burnout is real. The time away from home, burning through gas to get somewhere for two hours with half your house packed only to pack back up and turn around and drive to the next two-hour destination is insane. I don’t even like the sport right now. There . . . I said it. I’m so sick of softball fields and wind-blown dirt in my face. I’ve seen so many balls thrown in the last two months that my eyes hurt. But I still show up. I love to see...

Keep Reading

Having Babies and Toddlers Is Exhausting—but So, So Sweet

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Family of four with baby and toddler on bed

I took the girls to one of our favorite coffee shops last week and all around me were parents of babies and toddlers. Their little ones ran about in the grassy area out back, toddling up and down the lawn, when it suddenly hit me with perfect clarity—the sun has nearly set on this season for me. It was a realization marked by internal tension, a mourning of the loss of one season contrasted by the joyful anticipation at the arrival of the next. It came out of nowhere and hit me like a tidal wave. Having five kids in...

Keep Reading

3 Common Phrases to Avoid Saying to Your Kids (and What To Say Instead)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother sitting with young boy on couch

Learning to love yourself is hard work. I did not grow up loving myself. Instead, I always felt inadequate, and I felt the need to change myself to prove my worth.  I want more for my kids. I want my kids to know their inherent value and worth. I want to empower my kids to love and accept themselves.  My self-love journey, aided by the expertise of a counselor, has helped me realize there are some narratives from my childhood I needed to unlearn. I had to accept my emotions as helpful and not something to be pushed down. I...

Keep Reading

They Love Each Other (and Sometimes They Don’t)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toddler girl lying with big brother, color photo

When I was pregnant with his baby sister, Forest kissed my belly and talked about all the wonderful things he would do with this little girl he already loved so much. His plans changed, however, after she was born, and the thing he wanted to do the most with her was place her gently in the trash can. Some mornings he would kiss her softly, other mornings he would walk into the room where I’d be nursing her and say, “Her doesn’t look precious to ME.” Two and a half years later, Forest’s feelings toward Grace remain about the same....

Keep Reading

As a Mother, I Matter Too

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter in living room

“What’s more important than me, Mammy?” my daughter asked. I looked at her, and she was looking at me. Her question wasn’t harsh or accusatory, it was curious. She was curious. We were in the kitchen, I was at the table working, and she asked me to help her find something. I told her I was finishing up some important work and then I would play with her. This is when she asked me what was more important than her. I bit my tongue to stop the words that wanted to rush out of my mouth. I wanted to proclaim...

Keep Reading

Dear Daughter, Follow Your Beautiful Heart

In: Faith, Kids
Mother and daughter smiling

When I held you in my arms for the first time, it was like time stopped. As you looked up at me with innocence and new life, I was struck by the reality that my main role in your life would be to guide and direct you on the right path. I hoped I would do the best job possible. As I watched you grow, I basked in your joy of putting on your pretty dresses, adorned with layers of costume jewelry, parading around the house for your father and me to see. I dreamed often of what path you...

Keep Reading

My Daughter is “Extra” and the World Needs More People Like Her

In: Kids, Motherhood
girl jumping

She is . . . extra. She just is. All the time she is extra sad, and then extra “OMG, Mom-that-was-so-epic-let-me-tell-you-everything.” Extra energetic, then extra I’m too tired to help with any family chores. Extra hungry, then extra refuses to eat the food she just asked for because she’s full. RELATED: In Defense of the Wild Child Extra loves to show how much knowledge she has, then extra doesn’t want to do her homework because she’s too busy “being.” Extra defiant, then extra brings home adorable “I love you, Mom” art from school. There is no middle ground with this...

Keep Reading