My young daughter is very sensitive, and not uncommon for her age, she can be very naive about the world. I find myself reminding her that people can sometimes be mean-spirited and unpleasant. Until this year, her education has been at private institutions. Now, as she has transitioned to third grade and the public school system, the new environment is bit different. Being a young girl of color, and given the demographics of our community, there was a certain level of unease as parent when we selected her school. Sure, the school was rated very high academically, but still a degree of trepidation remained regarding her adjustment and possible treatment by other children. As we all know, children can be especially cruel. Thus far the school year has been fine, well, aside from the ongoing battle of bringing homework and books home. Nevertheless, we did hit our first bump a few weeks ago.
Ava in enrolled in chess club, and two little boys mustered up the words to question her intelligence and explicitly state that she sucked. She handled the situation well and ignored their insults (she fire back at one of the boys with a “shut up”). However, one of the boys had been escalating his bad behavior, once even taking her undergarments in swim class and teasing her in front of other kids. My daughter is not the most organized, everything flies out of her book bag from water bottles to inhalers, so he spotted her undies and decided to be a prankster. Not cool. Not cool at all. It was time for an adult intervention. Now, I would like to offer a full disclaimer: I am not a licensed therapist of any kind. As a parent you draw upon the wisdom you have gathered throughout the years, and you attempt to raise your kid(s) the proper way. So, take the following advice with a grain of salt. Below are a few tips how we approach bullying and self-esteem in our household.
- Granted, you cannot fully shield your child from an ill-natured world. Of course, you do your best to protect them from harm or things that do not align with your family’s core values. However, sooner or later, your child will experience a confrontation that may threaten their self-esteem, confidence, or overall well-being. And so early on, I have preached to both my children that they need to develop thick skin. What does that mean? Every action does not require a reaction. I make them aware that everyone is not going to be their friend. I make them aware that not everyone is kind. Everyone will not have their best interests at heart. And in the event that they are confronted by a bully, sometimes, it is best to just walk away if possible. I teach my kids to be aware of their surroundings at all times and never allow someone to aggressively invade their space. If a situation escalates to a physical confrontation, throwing hands should be a last resort if forced. If possible, seek out an adult. Sometimes utilizing one’s voice can be enough to back down an aggressor that feeds off fear. Bullies are generally outliers to accepted social standards; calling that out and standing up for oneself communicates that bully’s behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
- However, words can still certainly sting. Fists can sting even more. As a parent it is your responsibility to build, reinforce, and protect their blossoming confidence before they even experience their first bout of torment. To stand tall against a bully, a child needs mental and emotional fortification. All of this is made possible through your active involvement in their lives. Trust, a parent can be present in the home, yet absent in their child’s life. These conversations happen during dinner, science fairs, baseball games, and chess tournaments. Being fully present in their lives is the foundation for the open communication and close relationship that is required.
- It is always best for a parent to lead by example. It is crucial that a home has its own set of core values that the family follows. It is important that set of beliefs is instilled within your children. Especially in the case with my son, I always use myself as standard that he should model his behavior after. True, he has his own personality, but children are like sponges soaking up everything around them. Therefore, great care should be deployed to ensure their development is grounded in integrity, respect, and civility. You should be providing the template that they govern themselves after accordingly. It starts with you. Your child will be confident knowing they are backed by values championed by your household.
- Educate, encourage, and empower your children. I reaffirm their intelligence. I reaffirm their pride in their physical characteristics. I reaffirm their self-worth by explaining they are loved and appreciated by family & friends. And I reaffirm their love for themselves. I praise good behavior and hard work. I teach them to give their absolutely best and never take shortcuts. And I teach them to lift up others in need absent ridicule or judgement.
- Lastly, as a parent, you sometimes have to demonstrate a show of strength. What do I mean by show of strength? Your child needs to see that you have their back and be willing to defend them. I ALWAYS ask my daughter how her day was at school and if people were kind to her. Why? Because, if Dad ever becomes aware of any school shenanigans, action is going to be taken to remedy the situation. In the case outlined in the first paragraph, it required dual conversations (Mom & Dad) with the assistant principal (he was receptive and took immediate action) to address and resolve the matter. Generally, when I pick Ava up from chess club, I pull up curbside and she hops in the car. However, around this time, I made sure I escorted her from the school door to the vehicle. Subconsciously I wanted her to feel at ease and protected with Dad there. Following up on the situation, I routinely ask if any other problems had occurred. Thus far, that situation has been put to rest. I told Ava we would take care of the situation and we followed through with that promise. I believe that is extremely important as you build trust and credibility with your kid(s).
Again, I want to reiterate that I am not a licensed expert regarding today’s subject matter. If your child is experiencing bullying or low self-esteem, I recommend you seek professional assistance for your child. However, I hope you have been able to glean a bit of insight from my experiences. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of advice. I am sort of rambling off the top of my head. I would love the audience to chime in with some positive advice of your own. Please like, share with friends, and subscribe to this site if you enjoyed the read. Thank you in advance.