I remember being picked on when I was younger but never to the point that I couldn’t deal with it myself or where it started to affect my self-esteem.  Times have most definitely changed and this is not the case with my oldest child.  She is 11 years old and in middle school, a year of transition and huge changes which were already causing her stress but add in the bullying and she hasn’t had a great year.

To make matters worse, I am pretty sure that any day now, she will be making the transition from little girl to young lady with all of the hormonal and emotional baggage that goes with it.  Unfortunately for her with all the changes her body is going through, she has put on a little extra weight which makes her bigger than most of the girls in her grade and a target for bullies.

At first she was trying to deal with them herself as I have tried to teach her to stand up for herself so that she can learn to be strong and independent of me, but on the same note you get to a point where you need to ask for help.  When she came out of school after basketball tryouts, she got in the car and almost immediately burst into uncontrollable sobs.  She was in pain and clearly whatever was happening, she was no longer able to deal with on her own.  She finally was able to tell me what was going on and the very next day, I was at the school and talking to her teacher to deal with it.  Thankfully, my daughter’s school does not tolerate this kind of behaviour in any way (our school board has a very good policy in place for anti-bullying) and so far things are much better.  On that note, I wanted to make a list of some of the things I have learned and passed on to my daughter that you can also use to help your child cope and deal with bullying in the proper way.

  1. Smile: Don’t Give Them The Satisfaction: I believe it to be true, that most bullies are looking for a reaction.  Don’t give them the satisfaction, even as hard as that can be, get your child to smile and walk away.
  2. Confidence: Help your child build their confidence in themselves.  Let them know that they are special and that how they feel about themselves can never be taken away or controlled by another person unless they let it.  No one can make you feel a certain way unless you give them that control.  Make sure your child knows to keep control of that always, it is theirs and theirs alone.  Only they can make the choice to give that up and they shouldn’t ever.
  3. Disengage: Make sure your child knows that by engaging with the bully they are giving them a reason to keep coming back for more.  Make sure your child knows to walk away every time. Fighting back, even with words will more than likely get them riled up and wanting more.  Sometimes it’s hard to walk away especially when they feel the need to defend themselves.  Remember your best defense against a bully is to ignore them.
  4. Self-esteem: This is a big one for all children.  I think it’s important, especially for girls, to grow up with a real definition of beauty not the definition that main stream media gives them.  I have always been a “bigger” girl but I am a strong person and I have never let my weight or others’ opinions of me define me as a person.  I am slowing trying to teach my daughter that beauty comes from within and society should not define your beauty.  She will eventually get to a point where she truly believes this with constant reminders and our love.  She wrote something after being picked on and attacked verbally that I want to share:

Self-esteem.  This is an attribute that can be manipulated.  You either have horrible self-esteem or you feel really good about yourself. Bullying. This is an action that can change a person’s self-esteem.

Young girls look at the worlds definition of beauty rather that their own.  What are we supposed to think when we look at magazines and television ads that say I’m not beautiful because the world says this is beautiful?  What’s on the inside is what makes a person beautiful.

Bullying can also affect how we feel about ourselves.  My perspective of bullying is that it is a huge cycle.  One person gets bullied and then they do it to another person to feel better about themselves.  It only takes one person to not bully back to break the cycle.

I believe the word “beautiful” is in everybody and everything. I am beautiful!

Every time I read this, I know that she will be okay, that she knows that she defines who she is and not some bully.

Last on my list, which is probably the most important for us to teach them as parents is:

5. Get Help From an Adult: Even if they think they can shoulder this on their own, they shouldn’t have to.  I am glad that she finally told me what was going on so that we could have the school deal with it properly.  Your child should never feel like they can’t get help.  Make sure your children know that you are always there to listen no matter what.  Please also tell them that if they ever feel threatened or afraid at any time, to seek out an adult right away.

In the end, my daughter was able to talk with the girl with a teacher present and things were worked out.  The other girl felt bad as she didn’t realize that what she had said had hurt my daughter feelings and apologized to her.

I believe that an open dialogue with your children can and will make a difference in this situation.  As a parent I feel that it is so important to always keep the lines of communication open with your kids so that when or if something like this does come up, they have a safe outlet in which to talk about what is going on and get some resolution for it.  From the beautiful words written by my sometimes wiser than her years daughter, we can break the cycle.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

jessica headshotJessica Terry is a stay-at-home of 4 with lots to say. She has one daughter who is 11 and three handsome boys aged 8, 6 and 18 months, with hopes of adding one more little one to our bunch this year. She writes about divorce, co-parenting, blended family life, parenting tips and tricks, recipes and DIY projects, large family living and the chaos the goes with it. She also loves to write about products and brands that her family loves.  When she’s not spending time doing family stuff – which doesn’t happen often – she usually has her nose in a book (it’s her second love!). You can find all her ramblings at 4theloveofmommy.com.