5 Steps To Help Your Child Deal With Bullies
Why are there bullies?
Dr. Thomas Gordon’s P.E.T (Parent Effectiveness Training) core philosophy is that children don’t misbehave but instead behave in certain ways to satisfy a need that they have.
A “bully” in the kids’ playground could be hungry, thirsty, abandoned, or being nagged by his parents to leave playing and go home while he rarely comes to play. So there is something underlying his aggressive behavior with other kids.
As a mother, I need to figure out the appropriate action to take when a bully comes near my kids.
What I really want is to take my kids to play and have fun in a “safe” environment.
So here I am with my kids, in an open space with greenery and fresh air; all the ingredients for a happy family time and positive energy and rejuvenation. Then I see someone pushing other kids, hitting, or engaging in other forms of behavior that could inflict harm on my kids. I want to protect them, but is this my problem or my kids’? You see I am not around with my kids at school for instance and I want them to be independent and learn how to defend themselves.
So what can I do?
1. My first step is to make sure they understand the concept above and to understand the need to defend themselves. I use a Preventive I-message such as: “We are going to the club so that you can play in the kids’ playground. I need to make sure that you are safe, so in case anyone bothers you (e.g. pushes you around or hits you) I want to know how you will defend yourself.” Usually they would reply, “I can tell them to stop or just push away their hand in case they want to hit me”. I also let them know that they can come to me for help in case they need it.
A Preventive I-message is a message that can prevent an unacceptable behavior in the future.
2. The other thing I used to do when my kids were very young (pre-verbal) is to keep a close watch and be with them physically. That served two purposes; the ability to protect my child instantly and some bonding one-on-one time together (they still remember it until now).
3. In case I started noticing some aggressive behaviors from a nearby child, I would use Active Listening; that is try to understand what he is saying (verbal communication) or doing (non-verbal) and respond with empathy. Of course, this requires that the other child needed this and allowed me to listen to him. This would usually calm the child down.
4. In case the other child has bullied my child and she tried to defend herself but still he insisted, then I would send a Confrontive I-message in an assertive tone to the bully, “I feel really scared when you start pushing and hitting her because this will injure and hurt her”.
Confrontive I-messages are effective when there is an unacceptable behavior that I want to change, so I have to state the behavior, my feelings, and why it is unacceptable. This models for my child how to send an effective Confrontive I-message to others.
5. In case the other child doesn’t listen, I would either physically protect my child or move to another kids’ area.
Thanks to PET, I could use these effectiveness skills (Active Listening, Confrontive and Preventive I-messages) to get the results I want; to enjoy our family outing and help my kids defend themselves from bullies.
Life Coachers is a licensed representative for Gordon Training International with a mission to contribute towards developing a more peaceful and productive community through training parents, teens, teachers, employees, and managers effective communication skills that are applicable at home, at schools, and at work.