When I was in high school two of my friends and I were walking home when we were approached by a girl in the next grade. She had decided she “hated” one of my friends and started yelling at her. We all immediately froze as she proceeded to violently punch into our friend, leaving her with black eyes and a bloodied lip. I have never ever forgotten this day. At the time I was shocked, scared, and I have felt forever guilty that there was three of us and one of her, and we did nothing.
We did nothing as we were simply not prepared for such an experience. We could have tried talking with her rationally, two of us could have held her back, at least one of us could have practised self defence, we could have even ran for our lives, but not one of us had any confidence or wisdom for this situation.
I was later targeted by another bully for two whole years. This continuous bullying left me feeling anxious, scared, angry that I was scared, drastically lowered my confidence, I experienced embarrassment, hatred, a sense of failure, and I didn’t want to go to school. I think it is safe to say all of these feelings are experienced from bullying whether you are 2 or 22. In early childhood we might call it ‘not being a nice friend,’ but what can we do to prepare your lovely children to cope with these unfortunate but inevitable life experiences?
I am not a mummy, but I am an auntie of a beautiful niece who has been constantly bullied most of her kindy and primary school life. Like many other children she has struggled. I have even witnessed it, so it was my first instinct as her theatrical aunty to role play the bully, tease her about all the obvious things they might say to her. My first instinctive lesson was to teach her resilience.
She is not sporty at all, has limited co-ordination and runs like a drunk giraffe. She also is a fantastic reader and her spelling and understanding of the English language has always impressed me.
We talk about what she is good at, why she is clever and what she isn’t so great at.
I say to her in a teasing voice:
“You can’t run fast!”
“You are a slow runner!”
“You can’t ride a bike very well!”
Then I ask “What are you going to say?”
She says “I don’t know….I am going to feel angry?”
I say “Why? It’s true. You can’t run fast, you are a slow runner and I have seen you fall off a bike! So what! Just laugh and agree with them. Say “Yeah I know, I try and go faster but my legs just won’t do it! I try and ride a bike but I always fall.”
Let’s try! We role play, I’m the bully. I throw all this at her and more. I rhyme her name with as many offensive and silly words as I can find.
I say “So….Are you hurt? Are you bleeding? Do these words define who you are?”
We then brain storm some clever “come-backs” and we practise them through role play. We practise not triggering the ‘upset’ button as this is the bully’s goal. We also practise resilience, not taking ourself too seriously.
We talk about what our truth is, who we are! I am good at…..
I am not good at……I have special individual talents.
We know these things: To believe in yourself. Stand up for yourself. Accept yourself. Be smart, throw back at them with light humour, not emotional hurt. We must remember a very important fact: Not getting emotional is the best defence.
It is like water on a fire. Emotional frustrated responses fuels a bully. It makes them feel powerful.
As a parent or teacher we can practise self empowerment by asking our children to stand up and say together or in the mirror things like:
I am strong
I am beautiful
I like who I am
I don’t care what people say about me
I am not afraid
I can handle it
Role play looking confident. Ask a child to walk looking very confident. Ask another to walk looking scared. Talk about the visual difference and the importance of looking and acting confident.
Role play teasing in the classroom. Talk about how one might feel being on the receiving end.
Talk about why bullies might like feeling powerful.
Role play and discuss handling the situation well.
Role play emotionally losing it and giving the bully power.
Talk about the difference.
Encourage kindness with sticker charts. Have kindness reward days where you stick stars on the children when they are being kind. Get them to ‘dob’ on each other when they see or experience kindness and stick more stars on the saints. Have fun with kindness. Repeat this exercise frequently.
If your child has trouble with bullies at school or making friends, invite some children over to play. Plan a really fun day. Talk with the children about school and how they can help each other in different situations. Ask them if they have problems at school and how they react. Communicate your findings and open a line of communication with other parents.
No one deserves to be bullied. Whether you are black, blue, freckled, special needs or have the unfortunate laugh of a snorting pig, you never ever deserve it. However and unfortunately, you should expect it….and be ready for it in any way you can. Until the human race evolves, which may be some time, it is probably going to happen. The earlier we teach our children kindness, self worth and the wisdom in letting go of their egos, the easier their lives will be. A self defence course, boxing, karate or tai chi also helps boost confidence, as I have recently found out in my adult years. It’s not that we want to use it, but to know our own strength makes us have that real life confident calm presence! We want our kids to be unbullyable! I do realise that is not even a word….but it just might catch on!
Thank you to my little drunk giraffe for approving (and editing) this blog X