Most parents have a similar goal for their children, right? To raise a decent, considerate child who exercises good judgement and stands up to peer pressure. Seems simple on the surface, but turning that goal into a reality can be a daunting task for parents. Here’s a little cheat sheet to help you along the way!
WHY DO KIDS BULLY?
POWER: Hurting others makes some kids feel powerful.
COPYING: Kids learn bullying behaviors from role models such as parents, older siblings, peers, television.
COPING: Kids who are bullied by their parents or siblings will pass the same behaviors onto others as a way of displacing their anger and frustration.
EXPERIMENTING: Normal childhood includes exploration, which means that children will test out certain behaviors on their journey towards understanding. This might include testing social boundaries and rules, learning to assert themselves and their individuality, seeking acceptance/inclusion from peers.
AS A PARENT, HOW CAN I HELP?
Practice Emotion Coaching to prevent your child from becoming the bully. Help your child empty their “emotional backpack” daily by responding to their emotions with empathy.
STEP 1: Accept their emotions by not taking them personally STEP 2: Give your child space to feel their feelings, rather than jumping too quickly to fixing it
STEP 3: Don’t allow yourself to get stuck on your own anger over the issue they are presenting
When done successfully, you will see your child’s heavy emotions melt away, and they will move on. You will have prevented that issue from potentially fueling an act of anger against a peer. As a reward, your child will be better at regulating his/her emotions, which is one of the 5 main elements of Emotional Intelligence (EQ)! Empower your child through education & skill-building
It’s no secret that children who lack social skills and have low self-esteem can be vulnerable targets for bullying. Assertiveness training is teaching your child how to stick up for themselves using specific words/phrases and body language.
BODY LANGUAGE: Tell your child to look at the color of the bully’s eyes. This will force your child to look up and maintain eye contact, appearing more confident. Research supports the idea that how you look when you respond to a bully is more important than what you say.
PHRASES: “Stop bothering me!” OR “I won’t play with you if you keep acting like this” (using strong/firm voice).
Educate kids on bully mentality Bullies typically want a reaction; they want to instill fear and sadness. By controlling your reaction to the bully, you can transfer power from them back to yourself. The bully will lose interest if they aren’t getting a reaction or fail to get the power they are seeking.
dON'T Make the victim sorry they told you Be cautious about “bully proofing” your child - you don’t want children to believe it’s their fault or they will disappoint an adult if they can’t just “deal with it.”
dON'T Rush towards discipline Being tough on bullying isn’t about imposing an extreme disciplinary consequence. Instead, try to choose an appropriate response, which might be more remedial/educational and will have longer-lasting effects.
Inspire your child to defend a peer being bullied
Coach children on Bystander Empowerment - motivating kids to be brave by standing up to a bully on behalf of a peer and/or telling an adult
Example Statements: “Come on guys leave her alone. Let’s go.”
And if someone challenges him, “We’re better than this [and then walk away].”
Parenting can be the most rewarding and also exhausting role we play in our lifetime. Hopefully this article helps you feel a little less confused and more confident as you build your child's EQ! If you are concerned that your child's experience with bullying is disrupting his/her ability to function in school or with friends, don't hesitate to reach out for a free consultation to see if we can help!
Talia Filippelli, LCSW, CHHC, CPT is a licensed psychotherapist, certified holistic health coach, certified personal trainer, and the Chief Happiness Officer at Starr Therapy in Hoboken. She has been featured on CBS News as a mental health expert and was voted a Top Kids Doc by NJ Family Magazine in 2014, 2015 and 2016!
For more information on Talia or Starr Therapy, visit her website: