Jack stood on the side of the road. The winter air chilling him to the bone. Jack had been anxious about this moment since the evening before and the freezing air was the least of his worries.
What bothered him most was the school bus slowing down to pick him up. He wasn’t just nervous, he was stressed.
The bullying would begin from the moment he steps in. It was never physical, but their words were crafted to sting, shame and isolate.
This previously fun loving child had long ago lost his joy.
Jack’s dreams become filled with fantasies about how to end it all. He never does, somehow things carry on. However his confidence is destroyed, his self-worth gone. Like many others Jack grows into an adult with emotional hurt that research shows is as harmful as physical and sexual abuse, its consequences just as lasting.
So how do we help our kids if they are being bullied?
Helping our child recover and cope with bullying can be confusing and actually I think there are a number of beliefs that also hold us parents back from helping. Here is the first one:
Belief Number 1: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
Our kids, research and the bible tell us this just isn’t true. Talk to a child who has been bullied at school and you’ll discover they don’t feel stronger. You will most likely discover a child who has lost hope and either fallen into depression or become violent.
Proverbs 12 states: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life”. Bullying victims dream of being rescued, but often it doesn’t come. Often they are not capable of self-rescue, this must be provided by parents, grand parents and peers who are prepared to stand up and walk into the situation on the child’s behalf.
So we can rescue them, but we also need to teach them how to stand up to bullying.
A bullied child will have lost confidence in who they are, so one of the most powerful things we can do as parents is to help our child stand up straighter within so they become confident in who they are, and stand up straighter physically so they don’t portray themselves as an easy target.
We can do this a number of ways:
1. Show them who they are
There are a number of fantastic resources out there that help clarify an individuals unique makeup. However I recommend these three to anyone who asks me and we personally select these three for each of our own children:
StrengthsFinder – $15.00
Love Languages – Free
How to Fascinate – Free
What I am suggesting is, take time with each of your children, over time, to do these tests and use the reports to build their awareness and confidence in who they are.
Also, seeing the good in a child can sometimes be hard because that goodness is masked by a whole bunch of character flaws that grab our attention instead. These tests can be a powerful way for us parents to shift our focus onto the positive instead. There will be heaps there!
2. Speak life in a meaningful way
Saying “I Love You” can sometimes be hard, and doing this is important, but however amazing these words are it’s actually way more powerful when you highlight how much you love someones uniqueness. StrengthsFinder and How to Fascinate will help give you language to that. Read your child’s personality reports and look for words you can use to speak positivity into their unique make-up.
The other thing we can do is love them in a way that is meaningful to them, the 5 Love Languages will make this real clear…so no further explanation needed…do the test!
3. Encourage them to physically stand up straighter
A lack of confidence will often carry through to how we carry ourselves. If you can, get your child to show you how they walk and carry their school bag at School. Talk through with them how they could shift their bag or their stature to look more confident and self-assured. Even though they may not feel any different, explain that by just changing how they walk they can make themselves look like less of a target.
For example, a child with their bag on their front with their arms wrapped around it and their head down portrays a lack of confidence and in doing so makes themselves more of a target.
Some bully victims become violent. They carry themselves in a way that looks like they are out for a fight. Hopefully the above tools will help you reach their heart, however don’t rule out the role counselling could also play in this.
None of this is easy, but by casting aside the belief that a little bullying never hurt anyone, you can free your mind and heart to engage your child and help them to see their true value.
On the next blog I will talk about the next belief that holds us parents back; Turning the other Cheek