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From the moment we find out we are going to be parents, we want to protect our kids. It’s easier to protect them when they are little, but eventually they grow up and we can’t be there for them 24/7. We teach our kids to be kind to others, but what happens when others are unkind and our kids fall victim to a bully? What if your child is the bully? Our instinct is to protect our kids, but how do we decide when to fight our kid’s battles? Teaching our kids to treat others with respect and kindness starts with adults — our children learn by watching our actions. Finding the balance of when to step in and when to step back is trial and error; whether your child is bullied or if your child is the bully, showing kindness starts with adults setting an example for our kids. Adults should make certain kids feel safe at school and encourage kids to speak up to an adult if they are being bullied.
The Early Days
Do you remember the moment you found out you were going to be a parent? Did you feel anxious, excited, overwhelmed, nervous! I felt all of this as well as an overwhelming want to protect my child from anything that could possibly harm them, emotionally or physically. My husband compares me to a lioness protecting her cubs! I wanted to fight my kids’ battles and I didn’t want them to ever feel hurt or disappointed. But then reality, like it does for most parents, set in.
The Reality of It All
Dropping our kids off on their very first day of school is so exciting. They are going to make friends, have fun, and learn so much! We feel confident that we have prepared them for school; they have their school supplies, their lunch or lunch money, we gave them a pep talk on the importance of listening to the teacher, and we encouraged them to do their best in school. But what if they came home upset because someone was mean to them and hurt their feelings? Accepting reality means knowing we cannot protect our kids all the time, especially because in reality not everyone is kind.
There are many reasons as to why people may bully others; maybe they are unhappy with themselves, or jealous of others, maybe they have an unhappy home life. Regardless of the reasons, we need to validate the feelings of the victim, listen when our kids are upset, and address the issue. Encouraging our kids to speak to an adult or their teacher is important so that the teacher is aware of the issue as well and can address it accordingly.
It is also important to find out why a student is bullying others; speak with the student who is bullying so that they understand how it makes others feel to be bullied. We need to show empathy to the bullied student and teach empathy to the student who is displaying bullying behavior.
Always the Protector
Regardless of how old my kids are, I still want to protect them. I know this is unrealistic, but it is my instinct to always protect my kids.
When a car dealership tried to take advantage of my son, I wanted to drive there and speak to the owner! My son is an adult and handled it on his own, but it was hard for me to sit back and watch it unfold. And there was another time when my daughter’s manager treated her so badly that she had to choose her mental health over her paycheck. I tried not to intervene, but she asked me to go with her to pick up her final check and I witnessed him giving her a hard time. I tried to let her handle it, but when she got upset and walked away, I couldn’t keep quiet. In a diplomatic tone, I had a talk with her manager about the way he treated her. I had to protect my cub!
Bullies in the Workplace!
Unfortunately, I also have experience with bullying. I was bullied by a manager — a grown woman in her 40’s was bullied! When I tell my story to people, they share similar stories; there is a sense of shame that comes with being a victim of a bully. It happens more often than we might realize. My husband, the protector, offered to have “a talk” with my manager, but I told him I would handle it. I reported it to upper management and human resources, but my complaints were ignored. He was a manager and they believed him. The worst part for me was feeling as though my feelings were not important and that nobody believed me. My husband did not realize the severity of it until my mental health suffered and I crumbled. After seven years in a job I loved, I had to quit. I had to choose my mental health.
I was told I took things “too personally” or “that’s just the way he is”. We should not be expected to accommodate a bully. But because my manager was accommodated I was the one who felt shamed and embarrassed. I was fortunate to have a wonderful support system at home and I felt comfortable sharing my feelings with my family. Even though I was a grown woman, my mom wanted to call the CEO! (I know where I get my protective side from).
7 Steps To Kindness – Be the Example!
Personally, I think the best place to start teaching our kids kindness is at home by setting a good example. Showing kindness can be a simple process; here are seven steps I’d like to encourage you to do:
- Hold the door for a stranger
- Let someone cut in line at the store
- Show courtesy to other drivers when you are driving, especially when our kids are in the car (even to the driver who waits until the last minute to merge!)
- Pay for a stranger’s order behind you at a drive thru
- Say please and thank you
- Ask the cashier how their day is going
- Slow down, ignore the distractions around you and be present
Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
When SEL is part of a curriculum, kids have an opportunity to learn the tools they need when they encounter a bully or if they see another child being the victim of a bully. The main priority is safety! How can a student perform well academically if they are feeling anxious or unsafe? It’s important to teach our kids to tell an adult when they are picked on, especially if they feel unsafe; feeling safe and comfortable at school is important to our kid’s emotional wellbeing. If a student is displaying behaviors of a bully, SEL can help benefit them as well. Through SEL, kids will be taught:
- How to deal with issues and conflicts
- How to intervene and change a negative conversation
- How to give and accept an apology
- How to deal with peer pressure
- Healthy disagreements vs unhealthy disagreements
- The importance of showing empathy
Fighting Our Kids’ Battles
When our kids are young and someone is unkind to them, we encourage them to tell an adult. But as our kids get older, it becomes more of a challenge. We do not want to embarrass them, so we have to tread carefully! One of the toughest challenges is to show kindness to unkind people, but sometimes unkind people need that kindness the most!
Please feel free to post comments on how you show kindness to others, how you would respond if your kids were the victim of the bully, or if your child has ever been the bully. This is a judgment free zone so please do not hesitate to share your thoughts and feelings!