Strong parents can do a lot to help themselves help their children and chase bullying away from them. Yes, it is true that if the bully does not have you or your kids as targets, they will choose someone else, but if the bully does not have any easy targets, it will be much easier to stop and support them.
A lot of energy and resources are given to the victims and their families nowadays. If the victims did not need that much help, it would be easier for our society to help the bullies.
My cure for bullying is a strong family. I believe we can change the picture by giving parents the strength, tools and support to help their families break the bullying cycle.
Here are some more important things parents can do.
Associate with successful parents
Most successful people will tell you that when they want to overcome some problem or reach some goal, they hang around people who already posses the knowledge and skills to achieve that. If you want to overcome your own bullying behavior or help your kids with some other bully, hang around people who are successful at parenting and use them as role models. You can recognize them by their confident, social and accomplished children.
It may sound simple, but it takes courage to hang around people you want to use as role models, because you first need to accept that they are successful without being jealous of them. Jealousy prevents you from recognizing things you can copy, because it blinds you.
Another problem you need to overcome is that usually, successful people hang around with other successful people and they may not be willing to hang around you. You need to find something that you can contribute to the relationship in order to feel comfortable around them, at least until you have learned enough.
Generally, hanging around people who are better than you at something is a good personal development strategy. You can always learn from them and improve. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, you can ask them about their experience. Usually, you will find that they have gone through rough patches and they can save you making mistakes on your own.
Be willing to listen and learn from them. Again, you can find those parents through their kids. Confident, successful, well-mannered and talented kids must grow up with parents who support and encourage these attributes.
If you hear yourself saying, “All the kids are the same. They probably all face the same problems”, you are blocking yourself from improving. It is not true. Not all kids are the same and do not ever accept bullying as “just the way things are”.
Defend your kids
Whether you are going through bullying or your kids experience bullying, you both need support. Most kids and grownups never seek help from outside the family, because they feel threatened and unsafe, but they can help each other.
You must build trust with your kids so they will know you are their support in times of trouble. Most bullying acts stop when a grownup intervenes, but kids must tell a grownup for that to happen. You want your kids to tell you something has happened as soon as it starts, long before it gets out of proportion, so you must be a trusted person they can tell and feel safe with.
Parents who are bullies themselves are not trustworthy in their kids’ eyes. Some of them are so weak that if the child tells them of a problem, they will use it against the child and blame them for everything that has happened to them.
I never went to my parents for help, because they felt so weak when authority was involved (like a teacher or the principal) that whenever I asked for help, they blamed me or asked me to give up, so they would not “get into trouble”. In my parents’ home, this type of incident happened with almost all of the kids.
For example, my older sister, who was the smartest girl in her school, came to my parents and asked for help, saying a teacher had given her a lower grade than she deserved. They said, “The teacher is always right”, and told her she was making a big fuss out of it. But my sister was so strong at school (she was head of the student council) that she talked to the teacher and when that did not help, she declared she was not coming to school until her report card was fixed. After 3 days at home, the principal of the high school himself asked her to come and made sure her report card was fixed.
When the same thing happened to me, my parents did the same thing again, but I did not have my sister’s confidence and gave up. When it happened to my younger sisters, my parents blamed them for it and said again, saying the teacher knows what she is doing and did not do anything to defend them or help them, but I did.
Every time we had a problem with the neighbors, my parents also justified them and blamed us, so none of us trusted them with our personal problems. They were so weak, we never expected them to step in and defend us when we needed protection.
I am not saying that parents must take their kids’ side all the time, but they always need to help them and be by their side. Kids sometimes have unjustified complaints, but if they do it once, twice, three times, ten times and they always get the blame, they will stop coming to you.
If you want your children to trust you, you must show them you are there for them. They are your kids even when they make mistakes. They must know that you will be there for them when something bad happens.
Have family goals
A strong family bond can be a great healer for many problems in life. It can help you as a parent and each member of the family to feel that you belong and to build strength and confidence. Having common goals as a family is a great way to build this bond, because it makes up a good topic of conversation and helps each person learn about the others. Family goals can be housekeeping goals, special family projects, financial goals, vacation goals and leisure or hobby goals. Some goals can even be about helping one member of the family achieve something.
The important thing in every goal is to make sure everyone takes part and everyone can see how they benefit from participating. Sometimes, participation means getting more attention. Sometimes, participation means the joy of making another family member happy and feeling kind. Sometimes, participation means being able to take part in the reward. It is always important to attach a family reward to every goal – a form of celebration that everyone takes part in – so that everyone can stay focused on the outcome.
If you are the bully in the family, letting go of your desires and working on family goals can help you to be flexible and accommodating towards others while gaining something for yourself.
This technique is not always easy and smooth, because there is a chance that some family members will be grumpy and selfish and will not want to join in. The best thing you can do is make sure you have enough participants and have lots of fun with the goal so that the other person will feel left out. A sense of belonging is very important to everyone and if they recognize they are missing out, they will eventually join in.
Build a family team
This is the next step up from having family goals. If you look at families that are close to each other and support each other well, you can see that they somehow work as a team. You can overcome many challenges as a group rather than facing them on your own.
Of course, every team requires a leader. It is the parents’ responsibility to build the family team and function as the “leaders”, because they have the most experience and can see the “big picture” of life. Your team can be built around a challenge, a reward and naturally, when the members of the team find an advantage in working together on your own, rather than doing it because you want to.
Challenges that influence every member of the team can help both parents and children compromise, be flexible and show sensitivity towards each other. When you are part of a team, work together and have a bond with your family, you strongly believe in “All for one and one for all”. If your family is your “A Team” and you know they will be there for you, it gives you so much confidence that you can easily handle many bullies around you.
My kids are such good siblings to each other and they speak so highly of each other that they draw a lot of energy and support from each other. Whenever they face challenges, they know they are not alone and their siblings are there for them.
The difficulties with building a team are typically when there are conflicts between the two leaders of the household and there is no clear direction. Amazingly, single parents can do a better job at building a home team, because the conflict between the parents is not an obstacle they have to overcome.
Not all parents are natural leaders, but every team must have a leader, so it is necessary that someone takes charge and leads for family. If you communicate well with your partner and you can do it together, great! If not, choose the parent who is the more natural leader and let him or her lead the family team. The leader needs to be organized, relaxed, with good social skills to identify different needs, flexible and a good communicator.
Sometimes, bullying can drive people to do horrible things. There are horrible stories of bullying victims who commit suicide or do other things that ruin their life and the lives of their families. In extreme situations, extreme measures are required. If the bullying towards you or your child is getting out of control, make that courageous act of changing your life. Change your place of work, change the kids’ school and even moving to a different city, state or country.
Every parent who has lost a child because of bullying will tell you that given another chance, they would moved to a new environment to keep the child away from those people who dragged them to suicide.
I personally know people whose kids went through life-threatening situation before they realized they needed to take them out of that school. A kid I taught over 10 years ago got into trouble with a gang and was targeted as a snitch by the school authority. Only after he was brutally injured by the gang did his parents take him out of that school. He was afraid to leave home for 4 months after that. He never finished his studies and even now, a year later, when he goes to a shopping center, he only goes with other kids. The thought of him changing schools in the middle of the year was so hard for his parents they risked his life. He is lucky to be alive.
I also know people who were strong and courageous enough to give up lots of stability and change their workplaces just to be around their kids and help them. Changing a school, changing a workplace and moving to a new environment can work miracles. It is not the end of the world and it may be the difference between ruining your life and starting a new life.
If you are the bully, it usually means you have a bully that you need to stay away from. Be courageous and stay away from your bully. Sometimes, the bully can be (one of) your own parents, but you do not have to live next door to them. Sometimes, the bully is a friend or a work colleague. Go! It is not giving up. It is eliminating the stressor from your life. Trying to change the bully or make them suffer might cost you too much, a lot more than moving.
Join me next week for the more anti-bullying personal development tips.
This post is part of the series Bullying:
- Bullying Facts and Myth
- Bullying Statistics are Scary
- What is NOT Bullying?
- Types of Bullying
- Why Do People Bully?
- Victims of Bullying
- Bullying Bystanders
- Home of the bully
- Home of the bully (2)
- Workplace Bullying
- Workplace Bullying (2)
- How to Help Bullying Victims
- How to Help Bullying Victims (2)
- How to Help Bullying Victims (3)
- How to Help Bullying Victims (4)
- How to Help Bullying Bystanders
- How to Help Bullying Bystanders (2)
- How to Stop Workplace Bullying
- How to Stop Workplace Bullying (2)
- How Workplace Bullying Bystanders Can Break the Cycle
- How Organizations Can Stop Bullying
- How Organizations Can Stop Bullying (2)
- Bully Parents
- How to Stop Parental Bullying
- How to Stop Parental Bullying (2)
- How to Stop Parental Bullying (3)
- How to Stop Parental Bullying (4)
- How to Stop Parental Bullying (5)
- How to Stop Parental Bullying (6)
- How to Stop Parental Bullying (7)
- How to Stop Parental Bullying (8)
- How to Stop Parental Bullying (9)
- How to Stop Parental Bullying (10)
- How to Stop Parental Bullying (11)
- How to Stop Bullying with Empathy: The Story of Two Apples