Bullying (31): How to stop parent bullying

Bullying scene with bunny figuresParents are the most important agents of socialization in our society. Unlike teachers, who are the second biggest influencers on children, the same parents are around their kids while their teachers change. It is only sensible to think that if we want to support kids’ health and wellbeing, we need to support the most important people in their life – their parents.

I came up with the idea of supporting kids by supporting their parents about 20 years ago when I had an early childhood center. I could increase my young kids’ success and confidence whenever I got to the parents and made the partners in the process of education. There was 100% correlation between the success of the child (1½ years old to 4 years old) and the level of their parents’ involvement. My young students could read, do math and solve 60-pieces puzzles. They had the fine and gross motor skills expected of kids 3 years older than they were. At first, their parents did not believe their own eyes, but I just sent all their games and work sheets home so they could see their kids were able to do everything I said they could.

After 25 years in education, I can dare to say that investing in the parents is the most effective investment in children. And as with any investment, the sooner you start, the greater the returns.

I believe that government organizations should be investing in parents, but until that time, I will use this blog to help parents help themselves.

Here are the next 5 tips to help parents stop the cycle of bullying, help themselves and help their children be confident and avoid being bullied, being a bully or being a silent bystander.

Appreciate your abilities

One way of building your confidence is learning to appreciate your abilities. Yes, it is always nice if someone else tells you that you are good at something, but not all people have that luxury of supporting, encouraging people around them.

My parents have never said to me that I was good at something, not because they did not think I was, but because saying good things to kids was not part of their culture. I do not think they have ever heard it from their parents. But this did not mean I had no qualities or abilities, so I needed to come up with good things about me by myself.

We sometimes play a game at dinnertime where everyone says something good about someone else and we add to our list of abilities and qualities another 4 compliments (there are 5 or us).

So make a list of all the good qualities you have and the skills and abilities you are proud of. Add the things you are happy to have and things for which you feel lucky. If you feel uncomfortable doing it with others, do it by yourself. Be honest and keep writing until you have a page full of things that make you feel good about yourself.

Have a hobby

SunWhile we are talking about appreciating your abilities and qualities, finding a hobby is another good way to grow your confidence and build relationships with others who share the same interests with you.

Everyone can have a hobby and a hobby is something you do for the fun and not because you have to. It is a way to get out of a stressful situation, immerse yourself in a fun activity and relax. If the hobby is a social one that you share with others, it can give you a sense of belonging and expand your social group. People with no support structure and without friends are more likely to be picked on by bullies, so hobbies are a good way to be part of a larger group and not be perceived as a loner.

Encourage your kids to have a hobby. When they are still at school, it is easy to find something they are good at. Many schools have some afternoon activities that you can register your kids to. Let your kids experience as many activities as they like, preferably in a group, until they find the thing that makes them happy. You can tell if a hobby is right when your child practices, does well and engages in their hobby without any pushing on your part.

My daughter Eden played piano for almost a year when she was about 12 years old. She did not like it at all, because the teacher kept preparing her for one exam or another and she did not like that (she wanted to play for fun). At the age of 20, with a very busy schedule, while working full time and studying full time, she pays a teacher she found herself (who has become a good friend) for private piano lessons. It makes her very happy and she struggles to find time to practice, but we do not need to push her. Some days, she goes early to work so she can play on the piano at work. That is dedication to a hobby!

My son Tsoof has been playing music since he was 4 years old. He loves it so much he enrolled himself into all the possible ensembles at school. 3 times a week, he leaves home for a rehearsal at 7am and 4 times a week, he finishes a rehearsal or a lesson between 4:30pm and 6:00pm. Even on cold mornings, when it is still dark outside, he comes to our room, fully dressed, and asks, “Who’s taking me to school today?” He never complains about music. His dream is to learn to play the cello and we always ask him if he plans to do it in the middle of the night, because he has no other time. That is dedication to a hobby!

This is exactly what you want your kids to think of their hobbies – that their hobbies are worth getting up in the morning for.

Kids with hobbies are much more confident. And adults, too.

Get enough sleep

Student sleeping at a lectureTo run a family life, you need to be at your best. Sleep deprivation causes a lot of misunderstandings and conflicts. It is estimated that people who are involved on either side of bullying are not very good at sorting out problems and you need as few of those as possible to manage a family well.

Being tired is a lot like having PMS. If you are a mother, you know what I am talking about. If you are a father, you know very well what I am talking about, too. It is not something you control. It is out of your control. The hormones play up and women are edgy and cannot think clearly. Being tired is exactly the same. The body goes into defensive mode and what is just a normal reasonable comment or act can be perceived as an attack, which is a formula for trouble.

Mondays are the hardest days (did you know there are more accidents and suicides on Mondays than any other day of the week?), because of the change in sleeping patterns over the weekend. Do not underestimate the importance of sleep. It is estimated that it takes the body 5 days recover from every hour of sleep that is missed. One hour of missed sleep cannot be compensated by one hour of extra sleep the following day so forget the myth of catching up on sleep and be more sensible about your sleeping habits.

If you want to have control over your life, make sure you sleep well and your kids get a good night’s sleep. This will greatly reduce the bullying your family will be involved in.

Use the “I have other commitments” technique

Assertiveness is a skill bullying victims are short on when communicating with a bully. For some reason, victims feel weak and lacking the power to withstand the pressure the bully puts on them. Sometimes, the pressure is only in your mind and without any bullying intention.

If someone asks you to do something, it does not make it a bullying act immediately, but if you think it is, it means you feel weak somehow and that is not a good feeling. Assertiveness is one way to deal with this problem. Developing assertiveness is a process and a skill that we as parents need very much and we need to teach our kids. In life, many things require our assertive reaction and with practice, we can get better and better at it.

Recognize when someone makes you feel weak and that you want to say “no” but do not have the power to say it. Practice saying, “I have other commitments”. Much like saying, “I need to check with my wife”, you are not asking for permission and you do not give too much information about your commitments, so you are not giving the other person an opportunity to talk you out of your “other commitments”. You just say, “I have other commitments”. If you think about it, it is always true, because whenever you say “no” to someone else, you always think you would rather do something else with your time.

When I say I have other commitments, I know it is always true, because asking for my time always takes me from my commitment to my kids, to my husband, to my business, even to myself.

Stand in front of the mirror and practice saying it and do not be tempted to elaborate on your commitments. This will position you in a good social position and prevent other people from thinking you are easy to manipulate.

Do not use drugs or over medicate yourself

PillsI have written about health before and I am sure that the topic of physical health is very important and can be covered over endless posts in this series in relation to bullying. Statistically, many cases of bullying and abuse in the family are connected to the use of drugs by the parents or the children. Much like drinking alcohol, when you use drugs, you are not in full control of your life, because you mood, your relationships, your skills, abilities and physical function are subject to the influence of the drug. Of course, the more you use drugs, the more you need to use them and that creates a vicious cycle that is hard to break.

I am not going to dedicate much time and effort to explain why drugs are bad in parenting and how they destroy children’s self-esteem and physical and emotional wellbeing, but I hope you understand that when you are under the influence of drugs, you may do things you do not mean to do, because you are not in control. You are not helping your kids but making their life worse.

Some medications the doctor gives you mess up your judgment and you get them with strict instruction not to operate machinery and to avoid driving so you do not hurt yourself or others. However, none of them says clearly that since you are not in full control of your mind, you should stay away from your kids (and your partners) so you do not harm them. But they should. Not that I think that people who over-medicate themselves read and follow the instructions, but when you are not on medication and not taking anything that clutters your mind, make a conscious decision for the sake of your kids to stay away from these drugs.

Join me next week for the next part of the anti-bullying tips for parents.

Happy parenting!