Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Teaching Children to Be a Friend Rather Than a Bully

As the start of school approaches, I think it is a great time to sit down with our children and talk about how we should treat others. While this may sound like a silly idea to some, I think it is critical that we let our children know how we expect them to behave.
Bullying is becoming a problem with younger and younger children. And it is not just boys who are doing the bullying. Although boys are more physical in their bullying, girls can do every bit as much damage, if not more, through psychological and emotional bullying. Girls tend to bully through excluding and gossiping. Boys are more known for physical aggression in their bullying. Bullying can destroy children's lives and diminish their feelings of self-worth. It is becoming an even bigger problem with the use of technology. I think that if parents were more proactive in talking to their children, we could help to decrease this problem. Although the discussion you have with your child will differ depending on age, there are some common themes parents should think about:

  • Talk to kids about their own self-esteem. Teach them that the way to feel good about oneself is not through bringing others down. Teach them instead that they will feel much better by bringing others up.
  • Be a good example. If you are gossiping or controlling, your children will use your same manipulative tactics on others.
  • If necessary, discuss punishment for bullying. For example, if your child is bullying through e-mail or texting, explain that they will lose those privileges.
  • Read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People. Share the principles taught with your children during a family night.
  • Discuss with your child how he/she would feel if being bullied. The commandment "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," although old, still applies.
  • Talk to kids about how to develop positive and lasting friendships. Many times kids get involved with bullying just to follow the crowd. Teach them to stand up to it.
I know these items are easier said than done. But if we can teach our children how to behave in positive ways, they will be happier and their example will influence many. As I think back to my high school years, one of the most popular kids in my school was a boy who took it upon himself to be a friend to everyone. He was our student body president. Everyone loved him because he was nice to everyone, including the kid who many kids speculated might blow up our school. He had a tremendous influence on others and he kind of started a trend of being nice to others. Isn't that an amazing way to be remembered? Much better than being remembered as the bully who destroyed lives. I know that we have all probably spoken unkind words at different times in our lives, but my hope is that you take some time to discuss your values and what you expect of your child with your child. Doing so can make a difference.

What other items do you think are important to discuss involving bullying? How can we help our children steer away from bullying behaviors? How can we help our children when they are the victims of bullying?

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