Sunday, 22 April 2018

C Columns

Buddy or bully? When cruelty moved in next door

 

By Janet Lund

 

Smiles often bring joy to my heart, but on rare occasions they do the opposite. I have never understood why. Not until just a few weeks ago.

It all started with a smile...during a conversation with my loving husband. He made an innocent suggestion. While doing so, he smiled. It triggered something negative in me. I didn’t receive his message well.

So, we talked it through and I got some helpful insights. That was good.

But, deep down I knew there was something more. But what? Something about...the smile.

Friend or Foe?

The next morning, I woke up still wondering. Then a memory poured over me like hot water on a sunburn...

During the summer between 3rd and 4th grade a new family moved in next door to me.I was so excited. There were three kids. One just my age...we started out as friends. Pals.Just long enough for him to get to know me. I was shy, sweet spirited, enjoyed his company and desperately needed a friend. I was the perfect target.

Before I knew what happened, my fun new friend turned into my worst nightmare neighbor. The change started gradually but quickly became the norm. He said cruel things when we were alone. Other times he saved them for a crowd. Boy, he loved a crowd. They feared him, too.

He loved to point out how I was unworthy. He wanted me to believe I was broken. He also convinced me that I couldn’t tell anyone about how he was treating me. If I did, he would know, and this would be very bad...for me. I believed him. He loved that.

Being both my next­ door neighbor and classmate, he had access to me often and everywhere. My backyard, front yard, taunting me through my bedroom window, on the bus, at school. Everywhere.

Can you guess what made the experience even worse? Before every verbal attack...he would smile.

I never told anyone. Not until now.

The Bully Basics

Here are some basics that you should know about the dynamics that take place between bullies and their victims.• Bullies make sure their victims believe that no one can save them. Not even adults.• Bullies make it clear that telling would make things worse, not better, for the victim.

• Bullies thrive in the dark world of secrets.

• Bullies are often being bullied at home.

• When victims don’t tell on bullies, the bullies grow stronger and bolder.

• When victims believe no one can help them, bullies stay safely hidden in the darkness.

• When victims tell adults about bullies, it shines the light on what is going on!

10 Steps to Dealing with a Bully

Dealing with a bully in the neighborhood or on the playground is not uncommon. It is important to equip your child with the tools necessary to deal with a bully.

1. Spend time listening to your child/teen daily after school.

2. Talk about bullies starting today and keep the conversation going.

3. Teach your child “The Bully Basics.”

4. Discuss your kid’s options in dealing with a bully:

• Calmly look the bully in the eye and tell them to stop.

• Calmly walk away.

• Always tell an adult, as soon as possible.

5. Point out how bullies try to scare their victims by:

• Threatening the victim not to tell adults or things will get worse.

• Threatening that no one can help you.

• Threatening that no one will believe you.

6. Assure your child that bullies are afraid that you will tell on them. Knowing this helps potential victims realize that they have the power to do something.

Learn How Bullies Are Dealt With In Your Child’s Different Environments

Mom, get informed on how your child’s school, school bus drivers, and any organization your kid is involved in deal with bullies. A united front leaves no dark alleys for bullies to hide in.

If there is no plan for dealing with bullies, take the lead and start making one. That way you can:

7. Confirm that adults will keep kids safe.

8. Assure your child that she/he will be safe.

Teach Leadership When Dealing with Bullies

It is important that your child/teen understands the powerful difference they can make by standing up for other kids who are getting bullied. So:

9. Teach your child how to stand up for other kids being bullied:

• By calmly telling the bully to stop.

• By calmly walking away with the other student.

• By going with the student to tell an adult immediately.

10. Inform your child that standing up for others will help by:

• Teaching bullies that they will not get away with their behavior.

• Showing victims that they aren’t alone in their experience.

Now, pause and remember that a bully has feelings, too. One of those bullies might even belong to you. Let’s see where bullies come from and why they behave this way.

5 Steps to Avoid Raising a Bully

Although this may bring a sense of vulnerability, reflect on your home life. It’s critical that you do.

1. Kids model what they see. If you or your spouse bully, abuse, or treat each other with disrespect, your child is likely to imitate this behavior when with their peers.

2. Feeling powerless is a gateway. Let’s assume your child sees you and/or your spouse abuse each other. This would make your child feel powerless at home. Kids try regaining some power in their life by bullying others.

3. Feeling invisible is a gateway. Your child needs your love and approval every day. If she doesn’t get that, she will feel forgotten. This can lead to feeling angry and resentful. If so, those feelings will be acted out on friends and classmates.

4. An attitude of entitlement is a gateway. Kids who get everything they demand and live without rules at home feel entitled. Getting what they want at home leads them to believe that is how the world works. So, they will continue to demand whatever they want wherever they go.

5. Commit to teach empathy. Some bullies come from loving, caring families. There are kids that come into this world with dominant personalities. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t learn empathy. Take the time to nurture empathy within your child. Teach the importance of putting others first, listening, and caring about other kids' feelings. Redirect their natural dominance into positive leadership!

Daily conversations with your child are how you make sure your child is not being bullied, or bullying other kids. Developing strong connection through daily conversation is KEY!

Engage. Listen. Love. Mom Keep Calm.

Janet Lund is a relationship coach who specializes in nurturing the bond between moms and their teen/pre­teen daughters. She leads moms through coaching, speaking, and songwriting. Janet has spoken and performed in Canada, the United States, and Norway. Follow her on facebook.com/momkeepcalm and visit her website momkeepcalm.com for parenting tools and words of support to be a calm mom. 

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