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Don’t be the victim

How to empower your kids to respond (and sometimes not respond) to the bully

Illustration by Eugene Cubillo

Illustration by Eugene Cubillo

Dear Suzi and Paolo,

My eight-year-old daughter was bullied in her previous school so we transferred her to another school this year. She’s new there so we are really worried. Did we make the right decision transferring her? What if she gets bullied again? Is there something that we can do to help our daughter not get bullied?

Stella Co

Quezon City

 

Paolo says

Hello mommy Stella. Thanks for your letter. Bullying can indeed be a big problem. It affects your child’s self-esteem, causes mental distress, and, in a school setting, affects his or her socialization skills and schoolwork. In extreme cases, it can cause mental distress so it’s certainly not something to be brushed off lightly. I think you’ve done the right thing by taking action to help your child. Avoidance is one solution but you also need to help your child understand the “dynamics” of bullying. They have to understand that in order for bullying to occur, there has to be a bully and a victim.

Bullying happens when the victim reacts to the bullying, providing the bully with more reason to continue what he/she is doing. The best reaction to bullying is to simply ignore and walk away. If there is no reaction, there’s less reason for the bully to continue.

Second, you have to teach your kid to stand up for herself. Teach her to say something like “Stop it! If you don’t stop, I will report you to the principal.” This is easier said than done, I know but teaching her to be firm and to take a stand is essential. It gives her power over the bully and also helps with her confidence. Try rehearsing at home. It will be a big help.

Lastly, encourage your child to form strong friendships. We all know how important that is. Kids with a strong peer group are less likely to be picked on. So do what you can to encourage strong friendships (without overdoing it, of course).

I would also encourage you to push your child toward martial arts. This is not to equip them to hurt or actually fight a bully but forsharacter development, discipline, and confidence. Martial Arts can teach your daughter many valuable things and it is also another environment where your daughter can form more friendships. Good luck!

Suzi says

Hello there Stella. I feel you! Our eldest daughter was also bullied in school. Good thing it’s a small school and we had good relationships with the teacher. She was able to manage the situation well and updated us. In the end, our daughter was able to outgrow the situation, plus the “bully” moved to another class.

But the situation must be different at your child’s former school for you to move her to a new one. In any case, rest on the fact that you moved her out of love for her. It is impossible though to rid the world of bullies. There will always be bullies and we cannot know what causes their aggression toward other children. In your sense, unfortunately, it is no guarantee that moving your daughter to a different school will eliminate bullying.

That being said, do prepare your daughter for what may happen. We’ve done that with our daughter and I believe it empowered her. Even us grown-ups find unimagined situations daunting. So prepare her. For example, teach her that if she is being teased, ignore it as though she didn’t hear anything. Bullies thrive on reaction. So no reaction is odd for them.

If they hurt your child, that is foul. Tell your child to immediately tell the teacher. If she is too shy to do that (for fear of the other kids’ reactions), then tell her to let you know right away if something like that occurs. I’m sure you’ll do whatever it takes to mend the situation with the teacher, child, and his or her parents.

Best of all, instill confidence in your child. It is difficult to bully someone who is happy and confident. Good luck, mommy! And I wish your daughter a school life that she will thoroughly enjoy.

 

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