Bully Proof Your Child – Part 3
Preventative work forms the bulk of all parenting strategies surrounding raising resilient, positive and well-adjusted children. It is not a body of work I can simply place here. To give this method the respect it deserves, and to make it available to all parents, I mentioned earlier, I have written an entire instructional manual on this work. If you would like a copy for yourself, contact me through this website. Given you have read this far, I am going to outline some of the work in brief so you can get an idea of what is involved.
It’s all about Relationships
No matter which way you look at it, bullying is a relationship issue and evidence has shown us that children who enjoy strong and positive relationships are less susceptible to the negative effects of bullying. Children are impacted heavily by their relationships (more so than we are as adults). It is through relationships we express and learn who we are.
Your child is impacted by three main relationships:
- The relationship they share with their peers
- The relationship they experience with you the parent
- The most important relationship of all: The one they share with themselves
Researchers emphasise, children who enjoy strong and positive relationships with their parents and themselves, also enjoy positive friendships. We also know, children (and adults) who enjoy strong family relationships are more able to survive challenging life incidents. In sum, children with healthy home-based and internal relationships fare better with peers. It makes sense these same children are less likely to be impacted by bullies or to be bullied at all. In case you’re not convinced, try a quick online search for “bullying and self-esteem”. At last count, I found over 20 million entries linking the two. It is a relationship we cannot ignore.
I observe this first-hand too. Over many years of professional work with bullied children, I’ve noticed they all suffer in some way from lowered self-esteem: The worse the bullying, the lower their self-esteem. I notice these children appear to be easier targets for bullies. On the flip side, I’ve met children who are being bullied, but do not appear to be as bothered as they could be. In the majority of cases, they also have strong self-esteem. Sure, they might be upset in the moment (which is why their parents have brought them to me), but I can see they know their worth, so they don’t buy-in to the bullying. In turn, they are much less likely to develop psychological, social and emotional disorders than children with lower self-esteem.
With these findings in mind, preventative work is designed with two goals:
Build a strong and positive relationship between you and your child.
Build your child’s self-esteem.
Remember, children with high self-esteem are more resilient.
Now read this next bit carefully. It is very important.
Children who have strong family relationships and higher self-esteem have the social and emotional capacity to respond intelligently to life’s challenges. They are more able to navigate the world on their own terms. They have the personal strength required to define their character, which they build on sound principles and values.
These children are more interested in being proud of who they are than in gaining the approval of their peers. They can decide for themselves who they are and what they are worth.
They gravitate to others who are like themselves, and withdraw from those who are not. They are outcome-focused, goal-oriented and results-driven. In psychology, we say they are more concerned with true and right process and less concerned with shallow and temporary content. These children know how to show up and …
The world is run by those who show up!
What Does Higher Self Esteem Look Like?
Children with higher self-esteem are more able to:
Feel valued, loved and worthy.
Manage life’s obstacles, knowing they can bounce back.
Respond to problems in a positive fashion.
Take care of their psychological, emotional and physical health.
Accept and forgive others for their mistakes.
What Does Lowered Self Esteem Look Like?
Children with lowered self-esteem are more likely to:
Be overly self-critical and
Be unable to accept their strengths, or to minimise them.
See others as better and more capable.
Use negative language to describe themselves
(e.g., loser, fat, stupid).
Blame themselves for life’s challenges.
Believe that luck is needed for happiness, and others are luckier than they.
Reject or not believe compliments.
Exacurate, lame or put others down
What are the Causes of Lowered Self Esteem?
Lowered self-esteem can be the result of any one of a number of issues. However, one of the most certain causes is an unhappy childhood: More specifically, an unhappy childhood punctuated by authoritarian parents. In simple terms, authoritarian parents are highly critical, physically abusive, excessively punishing of mistakes and unforgiving. They are poor at providing positive feedback, expressing daily love and instilling confidence in their children.
Other causes of low self-esteem in children include:
Academic struggles at school.
Stressful life events such as parental divorce, or the death of a loved one.
Exposure to parents who treat each other in a verbally or physically aggressive manner.
Ongoing medical issues.
What are the Dangers of Lowered Self Esteem?
If your child is humble, it is natural they will occasionally experience low confidence. However, if they have low self-esteem, they will be unhappy or unsatisfied with themselves most of the time. This is dangerous because it can lead to severe negative impacts on their psychological well being – both now and throughout their life.
Evidence indicates that children with low self-esteem can experience:
- Sadness, depression, anxiety, anger, shame or guilt.
- Relationship problems whereby they learn to accept unfair, unreasonable and sometimes brutal behaviour from partners and peers.
- Avoid opportunities and challenges because they doubt their abilities to succeed.
- Extreme perfectionist tendencies where they can relentlessly drive themselves toward high achievement status to make up for their self-perceived inferiority.
- Live in fear of negative judgement and in turn opt out of social events, sporting teams and other group opportunities.
- Impaired levels of resilience, hopelessness and perceived helplessness leading to an inability to effectively cope with life’s challenges.
- Lack of psychological, emotional and physical self-care manifesting as self-neglect in the form of zero or excessive exercise, self-harm, drug or alcohol abuse, disordered eating and in extreme cases, suicide.
Clearly then it is of ultimate importance you, as a parent, do everything within your power to raise your child’s self-esteem. The good news is, this can be done and you are about to learn how.
First, let’s look at common things parents say to their children in the hope of building self-esteem:
Use positive self-talk.
Stop negative self-talk.
Stop comparing yourself to other kids.
Be thankful for your strengths.
Stop worrying about your past.
Just try to have fun.
Think happy thoughts.
Don’t listen to the critics.
Quite possibly, telling your child to do one or more of these things is going to make them feel like you’re telling them to do something that’s completely beyond their power. Worse still, you’re more or less saying that you expect them to take care of their issues and you’re not interested in being there to guide, help, protect and support them in their pain.
My true relationship is my relationship with myself –
all others are simply mirrors of it.
– Shakti Gawain
Building Your Child’s Self Esteem
I want to emphasise the power and importance of highlighting your child’s strengths. Your child’s self-esteem comes not only from how they view themselves, but also from how they believe others see them. The most important member of this ‘others’ group is you.
Right now, ask yourself, “Do I show my child how truly incredible I believe them to be?”
Do you show your child they are fun to be with? That they are the most important person in your world? Do they know their opinion matters to you? That their hopes and desires are incredibly valuable? That their behaviour pleases you and makes you happy? That you are proud of their efforts?
When you repeatedly behave in a way that shows your child the answer to the above questions is a massive “YES!”, they will learn to see themselves in an incredibly powerful and positive light. Watching for what your child is getting right in life will give them the impression they are worthy and doing well in the world. However, be realistic too. You won’t constantly smile and praise your child all day, every day. You are human and you have tough days too. It is helpful for your child to know this.
If you are serious about bully-proofing your child and raising their level of self-esteem then spend time noticing them being the incredible beings you created. Children who view themselves as being good and worthy tend to exhibit greater self-confidence and overall mental and emotional stability.
I’ll leave you with this thought.
The worry of getting it wrong should never, ever stop your child from trying to achieve anything. A child with healthy self-esteem will never be stopped by the fear of getting it wrong. Such a child will know that in truth, there is no right way or wrong way of trying to achieve something, but that giving his or her best is the only way to do it. They will proceed with confidence and just do it. Children with healthy self-esteem believe they have what it takes to get the job done. In turn, it is these children who accomplish all things wonderful. These are the children who show up, and those who show up run the world. They are not victims. They are victors.
The evidence is in. This is our best shot as parents. We are our children’s biggest influence in learning the value of who they are. With our skill and guidance we can help them understand their personal value and learn to live happily, secure in the knowledge they have command over their life.
That’s it. It works and there are several million research hours to support it. It is time to take the power back. It is time we raise resilient children with the self-esteem of super heroes. This is how you bully-proof your child.
Bully Proof Your Child
A Handbook for Raising a Child With Super Hero Self-Esteem
Comprised of 20 easy to follow chapters, Bully Proof Your Child: A Handbook for Raising a Child With Super Hero Self-Esteem focuses on teaching parents how to raise children to see themselves as worthy, valuable and able to face life’s problems. It shows parents how to teach their children to competently deal with being bullied, in a non-combative and positive fashion.
Using an easy to implement home-based system, parents are given instructions on how to ensure their children develop stronger mental, emotional and behavioural well-being. Finally, the book shows parents exactly how to take control of building a loving and productive parent-child relationship.
My aim is to give parents and children who experience the torment of bullying, a sense of hope, confidence, power and self-belief in knowing they have the tools, strategies and support to deal with this potentially life-threatening situation.