You might be surprised that evidence now suggests bullying begins in the home rather than the playground. So, what’s a mum to do? Victoria Louis shares 5 important (and research based) tips to prevent your child being, ‘that kid’.
As mothers, we send our children out into the world hoping their journey through school will be a happy one. We rely on our educators to create an anti-bulling culture and both protect and educate our little people. But what if bullying culture actually begins at home?
Current research suggests that one in three children is involved in bullying whether it be as a victim, perpetrator or both.
It also shows that children who are not directly involved are still witnessing bullying behaviours on a regular basis. In short, no child is immune from exposure to bullying.
It’s natural that you might worry that your child could be bullied. Or that they could be even be a bully themselves. Yet we seldom identify that bullying behaviours can be inadvertently bred inside the family home. So, as parents what can we do to prevent raising a bully of our very own?
Do as I say, and as I do.
It’s important to be aware that little people have big eyes and ears. They are always watching how you, as their role model, behave and interact. A daughter who hears her mother comment on another woman’s body / clothes / choices is subconsciously normalising bullying. After all, if mum does it – it’s okay, right?
As our children negotiate making friends, group dynamics and disagreements in the playground their default setting, or baseline for acceptability, is how they have seen you (their parent) behave.
Interactions between adults in the home can also be impactful for the behaviours children adopt. Social experts universally agree that bullies are made in the home (not the playground) and what children learn from their parents will be reflective of their attitude towards bullying.
Spread kindness with abandon (sprinkle that stuff like glitter!)
You’ve heard it before, but kindness costs nothing. Every situation you’re in is an opportunity to model effective, empathetic communication techniques and create a culture of kindness. Be gracious to a sales assistant, let another car in front, hold the lift, speak up when you see or hear something to the contrary. Simply, be kind. Your children are watching! Kindness is learned, just as bullying is too.
Set very clear and direct family rules
When it comes to bullying there can be no grey area. Research confirms that your family’s messaging needs to be entirely consistent that bullying is not normal, okay, tolerable or acceptable.
The Bullying Project Australia states ‘Your children need to hear from you explicitly that it’s not normal, okay, or tolerable for them to bully, to be bullied, or to stand by and just watch other kids be bullied.’ Make a commitment to yourself and your children that this rule is non-negotiable in and out of your home.
But what if they just ‘see’ an incidence of bullying?
Discuss with your children that being a silent witness to bullying is unhelpful. Where safe, encourage your children to speak and stand-up for kindness. Research shows that many kids who witness bullying can feel powerless and hesitate to intervene. However, when parents have previously demonstrated objections to bullying they can be empowered to be change-makers.
Talk with and listen to your children every day
Chatting with your children on a daily basis – and asking the right questions, means you’re encouraging open and honest dialogue. You’re also giving them an opportunity to feel safe and talk honestly. If your children feel confident to do this, case studies suggest that you will more likely be involved in resolving a bullying incident earlier and before it has escalated. A 2010 study reported that 64 percent of children who were bullied did not report it, so opening the lines of communication is critical.
Being validated makes a child less likely to be a bully
Talking and listening is also an important part of preventing your child from being the bully. At its simplest, the research shows that children who feel safe, belonging and engaged with are less likely to demonstrate bullying behaviours.
Dr Valerie Maholmes comments, “What we do know, unequivocally, is that a warm, nurturing environment, where the child feels loved, important, safe and secure, enabling him or her to develop positive, social relationships, decreases the odds of violent or bullying behaviours.”
Raising a child takes a village. Yet the biggest responsibilities do fall upon the individual parents to make a difference. The good news is that it is not until around seven or eight years that learned bullying traits become ingrained. Likely, you have ample time to set (or-reset) the expectations, boundaries and behaviours you want from your child.
Discuss bullying with your mum friends, speak kindly and stand tall against injustice. Every tiny pebble creates a ripple – be the change you want to see in your world!
Mother-of-two. Tea lover. Lego Ninja. Expert in carpet Play Dough extraction. Victoria Louis is a 30-something writer based in Sydney, NSW. A former marketing manager who loves to laugh there’s no topic she won’t explore. Victoria is full of opinion, big on kindness and believes the day is always better with a dash of lipstick.
Images: Elise Garner, lecoco.com.au