Anti-bullying Starts at Home

My family and I were at the mall in Pittsburgh Mills one evening and Ella was excited to play at the indoor playground there. They have these little model homes that kids can play in. Ella really liked walking in and out of the houses to peer through the windows. There was also two little boys playing there and they were pretty rowdy. Boys will be boys. Ella is not easily intimidated so I just watched carefully instead of hovering over the kids.

The boys were following Ella and kept jumping around her yelling, “Hi! Hi! Hi!”. She just stood and stared at them. She didn’t flinch, whine, get mad, say anything, or even try to get away. When the boys started walking in her way, blocking her from getting out of the house, I walked over and said, “Ella say, ‘Excuse me, please.” Of course Ella is too young to say all that, it was my way of asking someone else’s child to mind their manners. The little boy moved and Ella went over to a little truck that had a slide built in. The boys followed her and attempted to slide down the slide on top of her. After a couple more times of these boys ganging up on her, I decided to carry Ella over to another area to play. Their parents were just passively watching their kids bully a little baby.

It made me think about the bullying issue in schools. I know I have written about this before and I have given the children lessons on it but it is a huge problem in our schools. You know how we get rid of bullying? We teach our children how to act at home. In last week’s church bulletin, I wrote about how children learn through imitation and how the way we choose to live sets the standard for how they will live. This applies to anti-bullying. If you want to teach your child not to bully, be sure you are not a bully. The bible says to be quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to anger.
We must choose our words wisely with our kids because it is very easy to crush their little spirits and not even realize it. I read a lot and most recently I read an article on building your child’s self-esteem (This is also a  key to ensure you aren’t raising a bully. Bullies are often very insecure and have low self-esteem.) The article gave tips on building your kids self-esteem:
  • Lay on the love and the attention but insure you give the child space to solve his or her own problems and make his or her own observations.
  • Make your child feel like a valued member of the family by taking time for his or her’s thoughts and feelings. Don’t put your social life, work, household chores, etc ahead of your child.
  • Be a model of self-esteem. Parents who think well of themselves results in children who do too. Remember, they learn through imitation which means they learn by pretending to be like you.
  • Set your kid up for success. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on him or her. Realize your child is an individual and don’t compare your kid to other kids his or her age.
  • Let your kid make decisions and mistakes.

The most important part of this article was about how poorly chosen words can CRUSH your child’s self esteem. Poorly chosen words can hurt and they can not be taken back. That is why God instructs us to be slow to speak and slow to anger. Give yourself a chance to think before you speak or act. He also instructs us to LISTEN. My mom used to always say, “I’m the parent, you are the child.” While this may be true, you should still take time to hear what your kids have to say. Even if what they are saying is wrong, take time to listen so you know how to set them on the right track. Ways to ensure your words don’t hurt:

  • Don’t use derogatory names or labels, even if you are teasing. (“Oh, Susie is a chunky monkey.” or “Bobby is a baby.”)
  • Don’t exaggerate by starting every reprimand with “You always…” or “You never…” It’s unjust and can’t possibly be true. Say it enough and your kid will believe it.
  • Avoid making your child feel guilty (Don’t say, “Your school is so expensive we can’t go on vacation.” or “We can’t go to the movies because we don’t have a babysitter for you.”)
  • Criticize behavior, not the child. Say, “It’s not nice to call names.” instead of “You are being so bad!” If a kid hears they are bad often enough, they will believe it and become just that.
  • Discipline, don’t punish!

The term discipline comes from the Latin word “disciplinare,” which means “to teach.” We need to teach our children right from wrong through a set means of discipline. The key to success is consistency. My daughter, Ella, is now old enough to be put in time out. I do the same exact routine for every unwanted behavior. I get down to her level and I look into her eyes and in a stern, calm voice I tell her, “No, you are not allowed to get into the cabinets. If you do it again you will go in timeout.” Then I stand up and in a softer voice I try to encourage her to do something else. I give her another activity that she is permitted to do so I am setting her up for success. I give her lots of praise if she starts doing something else so she gets a lot of positive attention from me when she is doing something good. If I would just keep saying no from a distance, then she would realize that misbehaving gets mommy’s attention. If Ella repeats the behavior after her warning, I say, “Time out,” and I place her in a chair where her feet do not touch the floor. If she gets out of the chair I put her back and start her time over. (She only got out of the chair the first couple times I did this. Now, she stays in the chair like she is glued to it.) After a minute in timeout (1 minute for every year of age), I go over to her and say, “You are not allow in the cabinets. Mommy loves you. Give me a kiss.” After a kiss and hug, I let her down from the chair. I no longer have a baby pulling stuff out of my cabinets because I do this consistently. I do it the exact same way every time. Since I’ve started this a few weeks ago, I have been gradually adding in new rules for her to learn (older kids can be given all the rules at once but since she is only 19 months, I don’t want to overwhelm her). Her getting into the cabinets and dumping out my pasta is cute but there comes a day when all behavior issues lose their cuteness factor. (There also comes a day when behavior issues can become bullying.)

This is a technique I was taught in college. I have used it with children of varying disabilities and it has always worked when done properly. Discipline does not have to be such an ugly word. There a lot of great techniques out there. Pick one you like and do it with consistency but be sure you are teaching not punishing.

God knows punishment does not teach. That is why He sent us His son. Jesus did  not come to judge and did not come to punish us for our sins. Jesus came to discipline us–to teach us how to live. We want to raise our children to live like Jesus and we should want to live like Him too. Remember Jesus is love and above all else, you must model that for your children so that they will go out into the world and love too.

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