By Dr. Warren Seiler
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Most kids will be bullied at some point during their lives. Here are some tips on helping your child move through the experience with her self-esteem and positive attitude intact.
• Make sure she’s prepared. Some kids are more prone to bullying than others. Talk to your child ahead of time about the fact that she might be singled out because she’s “different.” Make it clear to her that a peer who bullies can serve as an example of how not to behave and of the type of person she doesn’t want to include in her life.
• Know the red flags to look for. If your child is being bullied, she’ll be uncharacteristically negative, moody, sad, and/or angry, and she might withdraw and isolate herself from her family. If you notice these things, approach your child gently and take the time to patiently get to the bottom of the situation.
• Reassure him that bullying isn’t forever. When your child has been bullied don’t downplay the situation—but also make sure it doesn’t become all-consuming. Being excluded from the lunch table really does feel like the end of the world to them. Tell him that everything is going to be okay in his future life if he continues to be a good, kind, loving person who has empathy for the feelings of others!
• Love her. Show her how precious she is to you. Share your experiences of being teased when you were younger. Explain that she will grow stronger as the years go by.
• Teach him what you believe, and why. A big part of standing up to bullies comes down to having a firm moral foundation. Explain how you have become a good, happy, empathetic, caring, and loving person, and encourage him to adopt a philosophy of life similar to your own. If you are spiritual, teach your child what your beliefs are and explain how they can help, strengthen, and protect us.
• Constantly reinforce her self-esteem. Take every opportunity to tell your child how unique, valued, and special she is—and give her concrete reasons why. Connect your praise to achievements: “You are a hard worker: look how well all your studying paid off!” If she has great self-esteem, she might be uncomfortable if she encounters a bully—but she won’t be completely destroyed by teasing.
• Ensure that he approaches conflict in a healthy way. Your child will encounter a problem or conflict with a peer. Make sure ahead of time that he knows not to respond to aggression or to name-calling, and to go to a teacher or an authority figure if he is being mistreated.
• Don’t be afraid to advocate for your child. If your child’s best efforts can’t stop the bullying, it’s time for you to step in so that her well-being, attitude, and education are not adversely impacted. If the bullying doesn’t stop immediately, continue to make noise. Chances are your child’s teachers and administrators will be more than happy to work with you to ensure your child’s health, happiness, and safety.
Warren B. Seiler Jr., M.D. is the author of Battling the Enemy Within: Conquering the causes of inner struggle and unhappiness, available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers, and www.battlingtheenemywithin.com.
For more information about bullying and helping your children deal with bullies, visit these links:
Dr. Phil: Dealing with Bullies