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Thursday, September 13, 2018

How to bullyproof your kids

Last year was an absolute nightmare for my oldest son. There was a boy who went out of his way to make his life miserable. Each day my son would come home in tears telling me the things that this boy had done that day. He endure everything from name calling, and relentless teasing to this boy and his gang of horrible children who would take cheap shot punches and slaps to his stomach and head. We stormed the Principal's office regularly, yet nothing changed. It was frustrating. Things got so bad that one day my son came home and told me that he thought maybe he needed professional help because he was having thoughts of self harm and suicide. My mom heart shattered.

I got him help.
 And then removed him from the situation by moving far, far away.
Then, as a family, we started researching how to bully proof our kids. We implemented some of the strategies and taught our kids way to disarm a bully.

First, I taught my kids object lesson I found to teach my children that bullying hurts. I really wanted to be sure they know that their words and actions can have a lasting effect, and that they should always be mindful of how they treat other kids. Also, it was important to me that they know retaliating against children who might bully them was not okay.

The Buzzfeed story I found goes like this,  "A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying and gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take a piece of plain white paper and told them to crumple it up, stamp on it, yell at it, call it names, and really mess it up but do not rip it. Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out and look at how scarred and dirty is was. She then told them to tell it they’re sorry. Now, even though they said they were sorry and tried to fix the paper, she pointed out all the scars they left behind. And that those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried to fix it. That is what happens when a child bully’s another child, they may say they’re sorry but the scars are there forever. The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told her the message hit home." My children had the same reaction. Even my oldest son, who had been bullied to the point of wanting to give up understood how important it is to be kind.

Next, we opened our ears and minds and made a point to listen, listen, listen.

Not the kind of listen where you are listening to respond, but rather listen to understand. Kids, especially teenagers, are not always great communicators. Children have limited vocabularies makes expressing these big emotions very difficult, and teenagers are trying to assert the independence and likely won't want to verbalize they need your help. It's important to listen in whatever they have to say so that when they have something important they need you to hear, they know that you will listen.

I found an amazing article about Bully-proofing your kids - Starting when their son was 3, psychologist Tammy Hughes and her school psychologist husband started teaching him. At night, they'd say, "Tell me three good things that happened to you today." This helped him make the distinction between events and his feelings about them. Once he had that mastered, they added, "Tell me three good things that happened to someone else (lesson: the world includes me and other people, their feelings and actions)." Next they asked, "Tell me something you did that worked out well. Now, tell me something that someone else did that worked out well for someone else." "These simple questions help children differentiate themselves and others, and (teach them) cause and effect. If you can connect these ideas and feelings, then it helps children to prepare to identify bullying -- negative versus positive behaviors -- and who did what to cause the outcome"   We've implemented this technique in our home with all three of our kids. And, so far, I feel like it has been a success.

Finally, teach them how to take away the bully's power by reacting positively rather than negatively. We found this excellent video on YouTube done by Brooks Gibbs. He talks about how it is possible to disarm a bully by treating them like they are the most important person. With kindness, you can actually take away the bully's power. Watch:
Each of my kids have had opportunities to exercise this disarming technique and it works magnificently! I am telling you, being kind and positive has such an incredible power over people. 

Bullying is the worst. But there are things we can do to help our kids navigate through. Do you have a anti-bullying story or tip? I'd love to hear from you!

If you are thinking about harming yourself or attempting suicide, tell someone who can help right away
Call your doctor’s office.
Call 911 for emergency services.
Go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to be connected to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center nearest you.

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