Hello and welcome. Last blog, we discussed the need to teach our children what the word “empathy” means, to help them learn how to place themselves in other’s “shoes.” In so doing, we hope to teach children the basic principles that will help them to consider other’s feelings, before they act. What a beautiful world it could be, if we all practiced this simple exercise. Well, because there are those who don’t really care about empathy, and who are going to tease and bully regardless, our children need to “arm” themselves with confidence and courage. Let’s get down to the basics of combating bullying.
First, we must help our children to understand that those who tease and bully want one of two reactions. They want us to get angry (so angry that are faces turn red), or to get sad, preferably crying. There are no other responses that give them greater satisfaction. So, with that said, how do we help our children not get mad or sad? It hurts when someone is making fun of us, while others are watching and laughing along with the bully. It’s hard for our children, who all want to “fit in” and “be accepted,” to handle this kind of abuse. Hard, yes, but impossible, no. So what do we do?
We start by explaining why kids bully. Kids (and people for that matter), bully, because they are insecure with themselves. When you don’t feel good about yourself, for whatever reason, you tend to criticize others, in an effort to make yourself “look” or feel better. Putting others down, gives the “bully,” a feeling of superiority that they can’t receive by just being themselves. Therefore, there is an endless attempt to tease, criticize, belittle and ridicule those that the bully does not feel threatened by. Another observation to help your children recognize, is that bully’s usually only bully, if there are witnesses. They prefer a crowd. Why? The more who see them in their moment of “superiority,” the more recognition they receive. Isn’t it ironic that bullies are seeking and needing other’s approval? They just seek it in a really backwards way. As we help our children understand what motivates a bully, the bully is seen more as a sad and insecure person, instead of a threatening, superior being. This helps our children face their bullies.
Next, we must help our children practice appropriate responses. My personal favorite and the one I see that works the best, is to LAUGH at ourselves. We have got to have enough confidence that if someone tries to make fun of us, we can laugh at ourselves. Why? Remember the two responses the bully wants, anger or sadness? When we laugh, we take the air right out of their balloon. For instance, let’s say Robin comes up to me and says, “Monica, your nose is the biggest ugliest nose I think I have ever seen.” My response is to agree, laugh and maybe even make a joke. I would say something like, “Oh my, I know you must be right. I love my big fat nose and all the wonderful smells I inhale. I can even smell what’s for lunch tomorrow.” Ok, cheesy, but it works. I just completely “dogged” the bully, because I didn’t give her what she wanted. Another example, “Sarah, you’re clothes look like you shop at the nearest garage sale.” Sarah should respond, “Yes, thank you for noticing. I love garage sales. I bet you’d never guess what I found at the last one I visited?” Then, Sarah walks away without telling about her amazing find. It would drive the bully crazy. I know it’s kind of scary thinking of agreeing with the bully. But honestly, you just have to remember that you’re not really agreeing. You’re just forbidding the bully to get their desired response. That makes you, the Winner.
Some people think that ignoring a bully works well and maybe sometimes it does. Try it and see. Personally, I like the Laughing approach. This is the best way to show a bully that you’re not afraid, their comments don’t intimidate you, that you have enough confidence that you can laugh at yourself, that life is too short to let an insecure and miserable person, cause you one bit of sadness or anger. Wow, that’s powerful. Have your children practice in front of the mirror different responses. Remember, we never give back criticism. This would not be polite, even if it were deserved. We are ladies and gentlemen and the true test of a lady or a gentleman, is how well we hold our composure in difficult situations.
Good Luck! I know we can do it.
CEO/The Etiquette Company