I am very traditional and old school in my parenting approach. I’ve always taught my kids that you get what you give: work hard at school and you will reap the rewards, do your chores at home and mommy will be happy, be nice to other kids and they will be nice to you. Uh oh, wait… that last one… not true at all.
And herein lays the fault to my parenting approach.
Being nice to someone, does not guarantee that they will be nice to you. As an adult, difficult as it may be, we can condition ourselves to deal with horrible people. We are more able to muster enough self-esteem so that the foolish people we encounter in our lives will not scar us permanently. But when a little kid is the target of bullying, the effects can be devastating. Being bullied as a child is physically, mentally and emotionally traumatic. It is abuse.
In his article entitled The Long Term Effects of Bullying , Mark Dombeck, Ph.D listed the following as possible results of bullying…
“In the short term:
- Anger • Depression • Anxious avoidance of settings in which bullying may occur. • Greater incidence of illness • Lower grades than non-bullied peers • Suicidal thoughts and feelings (In one British retrospective bullying experiences survey I came across (of unknown scientific value), 20% of the sample attempted suicide secondary to having been bullied, whereas only 3% of participants who were not bullied attempted suicide).
In the long term:
- Reduced occupational opportunities • Lingering feelings of anger and bitterness, desire for revenge. • Difficulty trusting people • Interpersonal difficulties, including fear and avoidance of new social situations • Increased tendency to be a loner • Perception of self as easy to victimize, overly sensitive, and thin-skinned • Self-esteem problems (don’t think well of self) • Increased incidence of continued bullying and victimization”
I sure don’t want my child to suffer any of those, if I can help it. My husband and I have very different views on how to handle a bully. He encourages our children to fight back; to stand up for yourself. While I promote standing up for yourself, I absolutely do not believe in fighting back, I believe you run and tell the nearest adult. My husband believes that this opens your child up to being bullied when he/she is constantly running to the teacher with complaints about the other kids. I am of the belief that encouraging fighting is NEVER the answer. Because I am old school like that, remember. I’ve always said no hitting, punching, biting, no NOTHING, basically you don’t touch another person unless you’re hugging them. But I also don’t want my kid to be the playground push over. And my husband makes a valid point in saying that standing up for yourself IS old school because that’s how we sorted out scuffles in the old days… we’d meet after school and fight it out!
This is a personal piece, my opinion is just my own. I believe that while my old school approach is noble, the only way to get a bully to back off is to stand up to him or her. I’ve started to encourage my kids to “fight” back in the sense that they do NOT need to keep quiet for some loser kid who gets his kicks off hurting others. I’ve started teaching them to say things like “YOU WILL NOT TALK TO ME / TREAT ME / TOUCH ME LIKE THAT.” I try to build their self-esteem up, I coach them on confidence, I am constantly adding value to how they see themselves. I’ve gone so far as to say that if they need to defend themselves, they absolutely must if they feel threatened, and as a last resort. I don’t know that this is the right approach, I parent by trial and error at the best of times (sorry kids), but I cannot sit back and insist that my kid should “show the other cheek” if they were on the receiving end of some horrible bully.
How are you gearing your kids up for playground politics?