This is part of a three-part series discussing how parents can work with kids to resolve bullying issues. If you haven't yet, read Part 1 and Part 2.
Yesterday we talked about how to dig deeper into potential bullying issues and gain greater understanding of our child’s experiences in a non-judgemental way. Today we’re going to explore how to move towards resolving the issues.
This isn’t easy to do, when my son was bullied my body filled up with emotion: Fear, anxiety, rage, disappointment, frustration, but mostly, a deep need to keep my baby safe. In those moments, I was not able to be my most rational self. It’s OK to acknowledge your own emotions, but there’s one thing we want to make sure we get out of this:
Help your child learn a new way to deal with difficult situations.
No. 1 This is the biggie: Allow the child to problem solve.
At the root of bullying there is always some sort of problem. As parents, it is up to us to figure out what the actual issue is, and, help our kids to find a solution. For a child bullying, the “problem” might not have anything to do with the child being bullied – so, be open to “problems” being pain felt somewhere else in their lives and coming out at someone else. For a child being bullied, the "problem" might be a self-esteem issue, or, a lack of conflict management skills. Digging in a bit to their issue will help you to uncover the truth.
Telling our kids what they should do is always an option, but, guiding them is the gold-star method of dealing with bullying. If our young people come up with their own solutions, they are more likely to take them than our suggestions.
Problem solving sounds a little like this:
“Okay, I think I understand what’s going on. You are struggling because (insert issue here). And he/she is struggling because of (insert other issue here).
What do you think we could do to solve this problem?
Then brainstorm a long list of solutions. Pick one together that seems strong and kind, safe, and something your child is willing to do. Now go try it out! The solutions might be vast: Getting other people (a teacher, a friend) to help, finding a person or place they can go to when it happens, or rehearsing what they can say when they are faced with the social issue. What is most important is that they have confidence in the solution, and are keen to try it out.
What if it doesn’t work out?
Make sure that you're not putting too much of your parental voice in there. Sometimes a solution can go sour because the adults put pressure on their children to say or do something that doesn't feel authentic. If you think that's you, then back-up a little. Give less feedback and allow your child to brainstorm and choose a solution that is right for them.
It's now back to the drawing board... Re-check the original brainstorming list. If your child doesn't see an excellent option there, keep brainstorming! The right solution should feel good to them: A little nerve-wracking but not terrifying. Totally safe. And yes - again - both strong & kind.
And - if you feel really stuck - know that you can always reach out to me, your child’s head or teacher for help!
This approach leads me to solving every bullying or harassment issue because I keep digging until I find the root issue, and keep exploring with the child until we find the right tool. Ultimately, I know (and you should too!) there is always a solution to these complex problems.
Try to believe me when I say:
No child wants to be in pain, they just don’t have the tools to feel or act better.
About the Author
Kathleen Hilchey is a mum of 3, a teacher, and an anti-bullying specialist. She works with families and adults to untangle these toxic relationships, and teaches her insights and methods to parents, schools, community groups, and workplaces. Her coaching methods include teaching better conflict management skills to her clients, and, co-creating a solution to the problem. This unconventional approach to bullying turns the "punishment" response on it's head - allowing for quick and lasting resolution to this complex problem. Get in touch with Kathleen on instagram @kathleen.hilchey.antibullying or www.kathleenhilchey.com