How to Deal with Bullying when the Parents are the Problem
As parents we spend a lot of time worrying about our children’s schooling experience – not just their education but their social and emotional development as well. One of my greatest fears was that my child would be bullied. And, believe it or not, it happened in prep. I struggled with how to deal with bullying when the kids are still so little. My poor child – his first official year at school and he spent it juggling a so-called ‘friend’ with control issues and violent tendencies.
It wasn’t a fun year, but my little man learned a lot about making better choices (he can be a moth to a flame when it comes to bullies) and definitely grew in the ‘resilience’ department.
Victimisation doesn’t stop at the school gate
That experience made me even more aware of bullying behaviour, not just in the schoolyard but in my sand pit as well – and my sand pit happens to be social media, Facebook in particular. As a social media marketer, I see how the school bullies grow up and become adult bullies – and I can’t help but reflect that their behaviour begets the next generation of school yard meanies.
Sadly it’s rife on social media and has been getting worse. So much so that a group of us got together to create a campaign called #banishthebully to increase awareness about the impact of online bullying in the hope that it will make these cowards think before they comment (or risk getting publicly called out). It’s been a tremendous success.
When Bullying Begins in the Home
Up until a few days ago I had neglected to consider the link between a parent’s behaviour and their children’s behaviour when it comes to bullying. We need to remember that ‘monkey see, monkey do’. They look to us for guidance on what is acceptable behaviour.
I saw this in action at school pick-up the other day. A gaggle of young girls were playing while waiting for their older siblings to be let out of class.
There was one little girl in ‘control’ of the others – she was bossy, rude and I heard her call one of the girls a name. The other two ran to their mums upset. The traditional notion of bullying is of boys creating a physically intimidating situation for other boys – but “ mean girl” behaviour can be just as damaging. The mothers then started chatting about how this is a common occurrence with the ‘mean girl’ – she goes to kindy with their daughters. But how can a kindy girl – of three or four be held accountable for her inappropriate social activities? How can a three year old be held accountable for anything so complex?
One of the mums mentioned how intimidated she was by the girl’s mother. Comments were made about her passive-aggressive way of insulting their parenting styles and putting down their children – what they dressed them in, how smart they are etc. They all felt that they had been bullied passively by the mother and were concerned that the daughter was following in mummy’s footsteps.
This made me sad and also made me realise how much our little people soak up. They take their cues from mum and dad – monkey see, monkey do.
What can we do as parents?
As parents we have a huge responsibility to show them the right way. We don’t always nail it – we can only do our best – but ultimately if we behave in an aggressive manner towards others, especially in front of our children, how can we expect our little people to behave differently?
I may be committed to ‘banishing the bully’ online but I also need to be mindful that often this kind of behaviour starts at home. We need to #banishthebully there too.
Next time you’re passing judgement about someone or you’re about to make a nasty comment in front of your little person, think twice. Would you be happy if your child behaved the same way? Probably not. I am constantly ‘checking myself’ when it comes to my behaviour.
Dealing with bullies is about changing our own behaviour
We owe it to our children and to society to raise little humans who do not default to the ‘bully setting’. It needs to stop. Teaching children to practice kindness. We need to “call” adult bullies on their behaviour.
Keeping our own behaviour in check will ensure that we’re sending kinder, less judgmental, more supportive little humans into the world so that campaigns like #banishthebully are no longer required.
A mum can dream.
Alli & Co