4 Step Scientific Strategy to help your child deal with bullying better.
My son’s reduced interest in socializing
My son Rupansh is seven year old. He socializes a lot, makes a lot of friends. He loves to play with friends, cooperate and make things with them. I am writing this post after I observed some disturbing patterns in his group and extreme emotional reaction of him afterwords.
One day I was reading a book sitting on the rooftop of my home. Rupansh and his friends were playing outside on the road. I love watching children play and many a times take break from my work to see them playing. It is kind of very relaxing. As he was playing with about ten friends of his, I saw that few of his friends started chasing him. He was running and fell down. His friends surrounded him and started hitting. As he started crying, they started teasing him “Crying Baby”.
In no time he came running to me. Out of sheer ignorance and lack of understanding of the subject I raised my voice “Don’t cry like this. Boys don’t cry. Fight it out with your friends.”
I observed certain pain in his eyes but thought this is the right way to handle the incidence. How wrong I was!
In following days I saw that this pattern is continuing in different forms and that my son who would socialize so much would now avoid his friends. I could distinctly correlate this pattern and behavior with the same as my childhood. I used to face this problem a lot where my friends would abuse me verbally for my obesity, would take my bat and play and would not let me in. I know those childhood traumas can affect the overall mental health of someone even at a later stage of life. So I had to dig deep into the subject.
What is bullying?
Has your child ever comeback after coming back from playing cricket with his friends that he was only made to field and wasn’t given an opportunity to either bat or ball?
Or has he ever comeback complaining you how other kids have made a mockery of him or snatched his toys or have verbally/physically abused him or snatched his lunch in school or sidelined him? Has he ever comeback complaining that he is not made part of a group where other children play? Has he complained to you that he is being humiliated by his friends?
Welcome to the world of bullying. Bullying is essentially shift of balance of power where one individual or group of individuals may harm another individual or group of them perceived as weak. The harm may be verbal, physical, emotional or psychological.
Typical Parental Response in bullying
If he has and you have said “ignore it” or “get stronger” or “don’t cry, deal with your friends” or if you have reacted harshly on those moments or if you have stopped allowing your kid from socializing because he gets bullied, then you have responded the way most parents including me would respond. This happens due to our lack of knowledge in the subject, lack of understanding of the result of such bullying and ignorance.
Consequences of bullying
Non-strategic and non scientific responses often makes the matters worse for our kid. Because study shows that bullying has significant long term effect and can change the behavior of your kid significantly. If you do not help your kid with proper strategies to handle such bullying than there may be serious effects of such bullying which will be carried even through the adolescence.
Form the study which also reflects my personal experience that kids often do get stronger after being bullied. But, being bullied also increase tendencies of social isolation and psychological trauma. Though learning to deal with bullying is something many kids would eventually do, but if they fail to do so, they will suffer in various ways, one of which is lack of confidence while dealing with strong personalities. So rather stopping our kids from socializing when they get bullied or leaving them to deal with the situation alone, it is often wise to help them with the strategies.
Strategic response to bullying and how to help your kid
STEP 1: Do not avoid
Don’t let them avoid the situation, do not let yourself avoid the situation. Do not say negative about other kids. Chances are that if you do so, kids may start thinking that bullying will stop if they also turn into a bully.
STEP 2 : Provide Emotional and Social Support
Accept the fact that bullying happens and it is not a crime to get bullied as well as not an exception either. So when your kid comes to you crying or sad and complains about being bullied, give him the emotional comfort. Don’t say “other children are bad”. Explain him “It happens while you play. You are friendly so happens at times”. By making him recognize that it happens and if possible telling him some stories as how you were bullied in your childhood, you can make sure that he accepts this easily and also he feels safe that his parents are around him. Never react or scold when your kid is being bullied. He will stop bringing such incidences to your notice which is not ideal. You have to let his feelings out.
STEP 3: Help them understanding the perspective
Once your kid has the confidence that the parents are with him, it is role of the parent to make the kid emotionally and mentally stronger. The way you do this is following. First you ask your kid, “why you think your friends are bullying you?” Every kid has his worldview just like us adults. He may respond with some answers like “I am weak or they are jealous or I do not know”. By asking this question, you evoke thoughtfulness and try to figure out their opinion and understanding of the situation. Try to see if he got angry on someone which resulted in the trigger. You can engage with him in analyzing the problem. If he is not able to give his perspective then give a perspective. No one including kids like an unknown situation. You can say “They are stronger than you, but one day you will also become strong and they will then respect you”. This engagement will make sure that your kid doesn’t run away from reality.
STEP 4: Help them imagine a better world
Ask them to imagine a situation which is ideal. Ask them to imagine what would have happened if there was no bullying. Ask them how you could have behaved differently. Do you need to get stronger? What you can do to not cry? How you can avoid reacting? Help him to get better. If kids are hitting him, teach him few techniques of self defense. If they are making fun of him, help him to enjoy the joke and laugh along with them. Explain that bullying is proportional to emotional response and inversely proportional to strategic response.
After I started taking the subject seriously and started engaging more with my son, he is dealing with bullying much better. He either runs faster while chased, or hits back when being hit. When his friends make fun of him, he would also joke with them. He is improving and getting better at this. From my own example I can say with confidence that when you stand by your child in bullying and help him with proper strategy to deal with it, he becomes stronger and better physically, emotionally and socially.