Being a parent is no easy vocation. I say this with the backing of having watched my beloved mother go to the end of the earth, spending many sleepless nights raising my older sister and I. It must also be said that growing up is no simple shake either. I’m going to be forthright here… kids can be mean and they become even more miserable as they age. Having been on the receiving end of taunting and bullying I know very well what it can do to a child’s self confidence. As a teen it only seems the bullies gain new tactics and authoritative figures have less effect on stopping such things from occurring. With that in mind I wish to bequeath upon you some tips gathered from a few admirable woman (including my mother) which got me through the tough stuff and enabled me to push through it.
1. Advocate joining a sports team to your child
Being a part of a team will make your child feel a part of something. The team’s accomplishments will become theirs. It could also be a wonderful place to create friendships with people they had not come in contact with before. When I reached out and joined cheerleading, even though it was not as pictured in so many movies, I forged a strong bond with my team and learned how to put a girl five feet off the ground with only my upper body strength. What a rush of achievement to see a stunt go up! It was a real boost!
2. If sports are truly not your child’s cup of tea, a hobby or club might just do it for them.
Hobbies such a writing, reading, painting, karate, dancing, singing, acting, etc can be just as good as a sports team. I guarantee if any of these suggestions above peek an interest in your child, their school has a club or something of that manner for them to take their interest to a new and more social level. If not, there are classes, and activities outside of school they could take part in.
3. Allow all/most forms of self-expression (within reason!).
If your child has taken to wearing clothing or even doing their hair in a way that well… doesn’t exactly tickle your fancy (personal example: my platform combat boots my mother despised) don’t sweat it. They are simply expressing themselves and sometimes that is a mandatory part of growing up. I’m not saying let your fourteen year old daughter go to a sleezy tattoo place simply because they want one. There is a difference between being a cool parent and letting things get out of hand. Note: A very random sporadic change in style could mean emotional turmoil that’s coming to the surface via their clothing choice. Which leads me to my next tip…
4. Keep your ears open.
Communication is key! If they feel like they can share with you what’s going on in their life, you will have a better stand point to be there for them and help guide them. If they constantly feel like they are going to be reprimanded for things they think or have done why should they tell you anything? (See, teenage thinking right there) Sometimes when a child or teen is pulling away from you it’s when they need you the most. If there is a bully in their life you want to know about it, because taking on a bully alone can be extremely damaging.
5. Know what to say when bullying is occurring.
My mother had some key phrases that always seemed to make me think twice about getting angry or doing something that could backfire. I’ll let you in on three of my favorites.
- “If someone is taking the time out of their day to harass you, than that just goes to show how interesting their life must be.”
- “A bully is a bully and they do it because they have their own problems and take them out on you. You know you should really feel sorry for them.”
My personal favorite.
- “If they are picking on you then they are leaving someone else alone who might not be as strong, so think of yourself as a martyr.”
6. Animal Interaction.
There’s nothing like pelt of soft fur to stroke after a hard day. Getting your child their own pet will give them a sense that someone depends on them, loves them, and will listen and keep their secrets safe. Why do you think they bring therapy dogs to hospitals? Well, because it works!
7. An exclusive shopping trip may make for a quick fix.
Sometimes a single new outfit that makes them feel like a million bucks can raise confidence. It can also stand as a nice outing for you and your child. If you want to slip in any of the things you’ve been itching to talk to them about it wouldn’t be a bad time to try either…
8. Use the switch around.
If a child says that someone called them weird, you say they are unique! Turn any insult into something positive. It won’t always be as easy as my example, but it is a good way to make your child feel just a bit more positive.
For any parent or child reading this who has a bully in their life, my thoughts are with you. I hope some of my tips help put that person in their place, and help raise the bullied child’s confidence. And remember these words to live by for both kids and adults: don’t ever let anyone make you feel less than you are!
[box] Kali Yodice has spent her life in Westchester NY writing, reading, collecting rare books, and spending time with friends. She compares herself to Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as she often finds herself getting lost in “rabbit holes”, a/k/a her own thoughts and creations.[/box]