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Defend or forgive?

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Dear Suzi and Paolo,

My son is being bullied in school by a few classmates. While I want to teach him forgiveness, I also want to teach him that it is okay to defend himself. What do you teach your kids about when to fight and when to forgive? I have such a hard time with this.

Cheekie, 34

Makati

Suzi says:

Hello there, Cheekie!

It’s painful to know that your child is being bullied in school. No parent wants to hear that.  I am glad, however, that you know about the situation. Whether it was your son or the teacher who mentioned it, it’s good to know so that you can help your son do something about the situation.

First of all, ask your child if he has a group of friends. It’s important that he feels that he has friends who can support or help him in school or at least one or two friends whom he can open up to (aside from you of course). Being bullied in school takes away the desire of a child to go to school. So at least if he has friends, he won’t feel so alone.

Secondly, let the teacher know about your son’s situation. With hope, the teacher will be willing to keep an eye out and be extra observant in case your child becomes aloof or extra quiet. I hope the teacher can also help by intervening or managing the situation. It does not have to be specific to a person but she can give out warnings to the class regarding the school’s intolerance for bullying.

Yes, I agree it is wise to teach our children about forgiveness. In some situations though, unless the issue is tackled head on, the bullying might just continue.

So first of all, talk to your child. Ask him why he thinks he is being bullied. Let him know that whatever it is, no person deserves to be bullied. Secondly, practice with him. Ask him what kind of bullying transpires. If its words being thrown at him, practice with him to count to 10 and ignore the bullying. Nothing is more irritating to a bully than not being able to get a reaction. If he is being hurt physically, that’s it. Go straight to the teacher and ask for a meeting with the parents of the bully or bullies. The parents of the bully have to know the kind of wrongdoing their child is up to when in school. The bully definitely has more issues than the person being bullied.

Lastly, build up your child’s self esteem. Let him know that he is a good person and that the challenges that come his way must never make him lose his courage and the goodness of his heart.

I wish you and your son the best of luck, Cheekie!!

Suzi

Paolo says:

Hello, mommy Cheekie!

Thanks for your letter. Yours is a common question, in fact one that we as parents or as one-time children ourselves have had to deal with. Bullying, as we know from experience, is more common than many people think. And it’s certainly something we should equip our children to deal with.

For a bully to “thrive” there has to be a “victim” of bullying. You only really become a victim if you react to the taunts that are the beginnings of bullying. If your child is complaining of feeling bullied, help them through the difficulties by passing on these tips. First is to completely ignore the taunts. If the bully sees that he or she doesn’t get their desired reaction, there may not be more incentive for them to continue.

Help your child verbalize in a clear and firm tone that they won’t put up with the bullying. Help them practice saying it. “Stop bullying me. I don’t like it. If you don’t stop, I will be forced to report you to our teacher.” Helping them feel empowered enough to verbalize that and knowing that their teacher is indeed there to address the situation. Perhaps speak to your child’s teacher too, and let them know of the situation.

Of course, I would be naive not to think “making a stand” against a bully is not without the possibility of further taunts. Before that situation even arises, encourage your child to develop strong friendships in school. Kids who have a strong peer group are less likely to be singled out by a bully. Encourage play dates to build strong friendships. These relationships have benefits that go far beyond just avoiding bullies. It’s the foundation of your child’s social skills development. Conversing, playing with others, tolerance, and face-to-face interaction. Something in these days of smartphones and tablets, that we could all do with a little more of.

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