We spend a lot of time encouraging our children to do well in school, make good grades, study hard, and to prepare for the future. But sometimes we forget that the most important lesson for our children is to teach them to be good humans. The most important lesson we can teach them is to be kind. We hear the horrific stories of bullying and the sad consequences. We spend a lot of time talking about teaching middle schoolers and high schoolers not to bully, when bullying is at its forefront. Perhaps, we should spend more time at home when our children are young, teaching and showing them how to be kind from the very beginning.
It is hard to pin point one reason why kid’s bully; sometimes there isn’t a specific reason but a culmination of many reasons. Whatever the reasons, recognizing some behaviors will help us better guide our children to making smarter, kinder decisions.
REASONS KID’S BULLY:
Copying others’ behavior
Trying to impress others
The question then arises, how do you prevent your child from becoming a bully? There isn’t necessarily one way, or even a right way, but we should try. Give it our all to help prevent anyone from feeling unwanted or unloved.
Let your child feel what they feel and encourage them to express those feelings. Teach them empathy. Start at a young age discussing emotions, putting words with how they feel, and teaching them how to express their emotions in a beneficial manner. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood does a great job of teaching young kids about their emotions. Discuss emotions after the fact. Discuss about fights they were in while playing; “Not sharing made you feel sad, but how do you think that made your friend feel?” Don’t limit emotions to just girls – both sexes need to embrace and fulfill their emotions.
Get kids comfortable with emotions. Express and discuss your own emotions with them. Cry, be angry, be happy, be joyful – just honor your feelings at that time and own them. Our children are always watching, so show them how to be kind.
- ALWAYS TEACH KINDNESS
There are many different ways we can teach our children kindness. Do not let kids be mean to those younger or smaller than them. Treat pets with kindness. Explain to them about how hard it is for younger kids to understand their behaviors. Even though their little brother may hit them, don’t hit back, instead talk to brother and help him learn how to act in another way than violence. Teach them how to stick up for others, stand up for others, ally, and build up. But also teach them how to stand up for themselves.
Teach them how to respectfully stick up for themselves – use phrases that empower without being mean, “No thank you, I don’t want to play that now,” or “Stop that, I do not like that”. Bullies often want to push the victim’s buttons; it is so hard not to react when one is being teased. Talk to your child about how to handle being teased. Again, teach empowering words – “That’s fine, I don’t care if you don’t want to play with”. Many times bullies are looking to feel empowered, but if the victim brushes it off you take that power away.
- BE MINDFUL
Pay attention to your child and the way they play; if they are constantly trying to one up another, prove themselves, or show power – intervene and teach your child that is not how we treat others. It isn’t kind to tease, pick on, or alienate another child. These may seem obvious, but statements like “I have X,Y,Z and you don’t” or “I get to play with __ and you don’t”- are an early form of bullying. They are said to make another child feel jealous or to bring down someone else. At a young age, it may just seem like a fun game, silly – but without intervention this could become a nasty habit. And it may lose your child some friends – kids don’t want to play with someone who doesn’t share, respect their wishes, or isn’t kind.
Remember they are always watching. Be socially conscientious and socially aware. Our actions speak volumes to our children. If we treat people as less than, our kids will think they too are above them. Embrace differences, accept differences, teach our children to love, learn, and explore about other religions, cultures, and races – be bold, be direct. It is okay to celebrate different cultures and different beliefs – support them. We want our world to be better than it is now, a world filled with more love and more kindness. A world that loves and supports each other and builds each other up. This starts in the smallest soul, the littlest heart; start young and teach kids how to be a revolution of love. When children see others that are different, encourage them to get to know and be friends with them – don’t judge a book by its cover – we are all humans and we all deserve love.
- PARENT WITH LOVE
Give children love, attention, and respect. Parent with the love and kindness you wish your child to emulate. Research has shown that physical discipline is associated with bullying behavior. Discipline should not be used to exert power over a child; it should be a teaching moment, a lesson to show children how to learn and gain experience from the mistakes they’ve made. Don’t punish out of anger; use punishment as a way to teach.
OWN OUR MISTAKES
Apologize; we are all human, we all make mistakes, own them. Teach our children the art of being humble and admitting when we are wrong. This can go so far – teach this biggest lesson of all. We make mistakes; it’s okay, but we need to own them. Forgive ourselves and help teach children to forgive others.
BUILD A RELATIONSHIP
Talk to your child; build a relationship from a young age, one that involves talking and spending time together. As they grow older it will get harder to foster this relationship, but if it has strong roots it cannot be broken. It may wax and wain with time, but the roots will hold your child grounded in the faith and love that you are always there for them.