You may have experienced or witnessed bullying yourself through school, the workplace, civic groups, even at church. Now, to your dismay, your daughter has become a target of namecalling, gossip, shunning, exclusions, online harassment, and other forms of emotional abuse we call “bullying.”
We know that our “girl-poisoning” culture, also toxic for boys, is the root cause of fighting, school shootings and suicide. The violent, sexualized media is an instigator of bullying. So is the broken family, neglectful or unavailable parents who don’t nurture or guide their children, and a school or community culture that values “coolness” in dress and style, sports ability, and straight A’s over timeless values of kindness, equality, encouragement, friendship and good character.
Obviously, loving moms more than anybody want to stop bullying and put in place the necessary steps to prevent it.
Here are some thoughts:
- Teach your daughter “The ABC’s and ME.” Every girl has a basic need for Acceptance, Belonging, Control, and a Meaningful Existence. When someone lacks one or all of those, it’s easy to slide into becoming a bully. It’s a bad way to get good needs met. Your daughter has a right to all of these. No bully ever has the right to take any of these away. As you mother your daughter, keep her needs in mind. Make sure she feels she has all of those from her home life. She should know to come to you if she ever becomes a bully’s target.
- In about fourth grade, before the tweener and teen bullying starts in earnest, get with other moms and schedule a dramatic play date, perhaps with a local actress or counselor in a local dance studio or recreation center. In play-acting exercises, mini-skits, role playing, and just having fun (don’t forget snacks!), the girls can be taught how to recognize and deal with their feelings, good and bad, and become aware of the power of gestures, body language and assertive behavior.
- Instead of fearing a bully, teach your daughter to have empathy and compassion for an aggressor or manipulator. Often, her parents are divorced or alcoholic or workaholic, or she feels unwanted or somehow out of control. Bullies have a marked amount of jealousy, superiority, power-hunger, poor impulse control and a lack of empathy. They almost never realize how much their behavior hurts others. Bullying hurts both the perpetrator and the victim. Instill in your daughter the spirit of helping others, even bullies, because it’s the right thing to do.
- Most victims do nothing to provoke the bad behavior, other than to be “different” in some way – vulnerable, like the weakest animal in a herd is vulnerable to predators. Usually, it’s simply because they are “nice” and don’t pose a threat to the bully. They give away their power, though, when they just “take it.” They let themselves be isolated from others and have their self-esteem wrecked by keeping the bullying secret. It is unwise to respond aggressively in retaliation. But it is also unwise to remain passive and silent.
- Equip your daughter to be a positive role model for clear communications, assertiveness, conflict resolution and encouragement. She should stand up for herself and for other victims. Encourage your daughter to be a strong leader, not a helpless victim. Then maybe other kids will start standing up, too. All will be better off. Teach your daughter not to view the bully as an enemy or evil, but as another teenager who has problems and needs help.
- An effective, assertive response to an insult is to honestly state that it hurt your feelings and to politely ask why they feel that way. Remain kind and even give an honest compliment. Offer a chance to establish a healthy, equal relationship. Do it in front of the witnesses to the bullying, and show you will not be intimidated, but command equal respect.
- If it happens again, say, “I expected better treatment from you. There’s a lot to admire about you, but this behavior isn’t helpful to either of us. Can we meet in the commons right after school and talk about it, just the two of us, real quick?” Then you’ve offered a chance to reconcile, which would be great for all concerned. If the bully rejects you, walk away, but tell someone – a parent or school counselor – because aggression tends to escalate if it doesn’t stop after once being confronted.
- Online harassment is a more difficult problem. Enlist the aid of your school counselor or a community expert to deal with it.
- If your school doesn’t already have anti-bullying programs, get with other parents and ask for things such as an assembly with a video or role-playing skit with a speaker, an anonymous bullying “tips” hotline to school officials, assertiveness training, etc. The school’s “culture” needs to be changed to quit enabling and empowering anti-social behavior.
- Teach your daughter to jot down dates, times, places and witnesses to bullying behavior. It is unlikely, but possible, that if the bullying escalates, you (and school officials or even police) could need a record of the progression.
- Last, but not least, it is always good for a girl’s growth to volunteer to serve others and reap the rewards of kindness and giving. If your daughter is getting bullied, that’s the time to sign her up to be a hospital “candy-striper,” or help with chair volleyball once a week at a local retirement center, or read to low-income kids at an after-school center – anything that will bring “feel good” rewards to your daughter’s heart. In fact, ironically, if there ever is a meeting with the school counselor over the bullying involving your daughter and the bully, it would be a wonderful outcome if the counselor requires the bully to attend one or more of these volunteer sessions with your daughter. You can offer her acceptance, belonging, control and a meaningful existence – plus turn a negative, hurtful situation into a positive new friendship!
By Susan Darst Williams | www.TheDailySusan.com | Vitamin Mom | © 2018
BIBLE QUICKIE: A really great self-esteem verse for everybody to memorize, but especially teenage girls who may be victimized or in fear from emotional abuse, is 1 John 4:19: “We love him, because he first loved us.”