We all need an advocate. Adults learn to stand up for themselves over time, but children often need our help. They sometimes need an adult to step in and advocate for them, but they also need to learn to assert themselves in certain situations. When a child is being mistreated, or even bullied by other kids, it’s the job of the adults around her to determine when to come to the rescue and when to teach her valuable skills that will allow her to stand up to people who treat her without respect.
Let your child know that you are always available for him to talk to, even if the behavior of others has him feeling humiliated. Make yourself a safe space for him to vent or even cry when he feels upset over the way someone has treated him at school, at the playground, or during an extracurricular activity. Let him know that he should never feel ashamed of his feelings, or of being the target of bullying. When he does come to you, don’t overreact to what he is telling you. Stay calm, even if you are furious inside.
First, talk with your child about ways in which she can improve her own situation and take care of herself when she feels bullied. Does she have a friend that she can count on to stay with her when she feels afraid? Are there teachers or other adults in charge who she can speak with when another child is upsetting her? Finding coping strategies for her will allow her to feel a sense of self-sufficiency, which will improve her self-esteem. However, let her know that she should always tell you when something troubling occurs. This will keep you in the loop in case the situation needs to be escalated.
Simultaneously, speak with the adults present when the bullying behavior is taking place. At the preschool level, this means having a talk with preschool teachers about what your child has told you. In elementary school, this may mean speaking with teachers or administrators. Ask your child’s teachers if there is a way to manage the behavior. Sometimes, simply letting a teacher know what is going on can allow that teacher to be on heightened alert, so that the teacher can nip the bullying behavior in the bud.
If bullying continues, or if you feel that your child is in danger, feel free to be your child’s advocate, meeting with his teachers, meeting with administrators and any other parents involved if you feel additional input is necessary. Develop an action plan. Sometimes it takes a team of adults to protect a child. Teachers can make sure to manage behavior in the classroom and institute an environment in which bullying is not tolerated. Administrators can institute policies which tackle bullying, and other parents can speak with their own children at home about bullying.
Have you felt the need to encourage your child to stand up for herself? Have you needed to step in when you felt the situation was worsening? Let us know how you were able to help your child in the comments section.