This has been on my mind for a long time and I have to share something that may make many parents very uncomfortable. I will be using the terms child and children but it will include teenagers.
1. When parents encourage children to be bullies:
Many parents want to show their child how much they love him/her. They want to encourage their child to be the best. They are genuinely very proud of their child. Unfortunately, sometimes, their words and actions go too far. They put down other parents’ children.
“You’re smarter than So-and-so.”
“That kid must be poor.” (And therefore, dumb.)
“So-and-so is so fat like a pig / skinny like chopsticks!” (In other words: Thank goodness my kid’s not like him/her!)
“Wow, that So-and-so is a slut!”
“So-and-so won’t even be able to do well in life. Hahaha!” (In other words: My kid’s going to be the future CEO/President/Prime Minister/billionaire! All praises to me!)
Nasty remarks like that – maybe worse, maybe subtle, maybe unintentional. The child starts to feel good about him/herself because (s)he is better than someone else and not because (s)he is a special and beloved child like every other child. These parents are absolutely blind to their children’s faults.
There are times when I wonder if the parents weren’t the ones who’ve put their words into their children’s mouths. Or how and from whom did they come to think that in the first place?
Read: Could Your Child Be A Bully? (cnn.com)
“(Bullying) comes from home, from family members,” [Eva] says. “We hear our cousins and uncles talking crap about someone. We think it’s funny. We think it’s cool.”
2. When parents unintentionally contribute to their child’s bullying:
It’s hard enough to have to deal with being bullied at school. Schools should be an encouraging environment for all to learn. There are no stupid questions – or so we were told. Even teachers can let down their students by siding with the popular children.The home, therefore, is a safe haven – or should be. Yet even parents can unintentionally contribute to their child’s hardships, though they may have good intentions.
- Strict rules (e.g. early curfews, no TV during homework time, no sleepovers, etc.) – Strict parenting can demonstrate the parents’ love for their child. He or she will thank their parents years later but right now, while they’re young, it feels like being in prison. It’s probably the worst thing for teens to deal with as their peers mock them for being treated like a child.
- Not letting child shave or use makeup – That awkward adolescent phase is the worst stage in life, in my opinion. Appearances shouldn’t matter but it’s the stage when everyone is judged according to his/her appearance. Are they hairy? Do they look like celebrities (with makeup)? If you fail to look good around your peers and tell them that the reason for your failure is due to your parents’ strict rules, expect laughter. You’ve just been ridiculed and there’s nothing you can do about it.
- Shameful Clothing – Children keep growing and keep finding ways to ruin their clothing. Sometimes, it’s too late to go shopping for new clothes or maybe there simply isn’t enough money to spend on new clothes that won’t last long. The clothes are still wearable, technically, but presentable? Nothing like small clothing and clothing with holes to have “I’m poor” written all over him/her. Beware of the rich kids.
- Correction – The child’s had enough of being picked on that (s)he decides to fight back. Unfortunately, his/her parents walks in at the wrong moment and starts to berate his/her child. The bully gets away and leaves with the satisfaction that the opponent is in trouble. The worst part is when the parents say, “I don’t care what So-and-so did. Your action was wrong.” True, but what about So-and-so? Who will stop So-and-so?
- Hurtful words – People lose their tempers and often hurl hurtful words at those whom they love or trust the most. So it doesn’t help when the parent calls the child the same word or words that the bully used. The parent may not know what they bully has called his/her child but the coincidental insult only confirms to the child that it must be true. Words can kill.
Granted, not all parents are responsible for their children’s words or actions. There are parents who are bullied by their own children (they are afraid of their children). There are parents who are unintentionally ignorant of what their child is really or can be like (playing the angel around parents, and the devil around others).
I conclude by saying that all parents must pay extra attention to this issue. It cannot simply be left to schools for counsellors and teachers to teach and to handle. Pay attention to what you are saying and doing. Be prepared to stand up for your child – but be civil with other parents.
‘Parents should be having frequent conversations about what’s happening at school, know who their children are hanging out with and keep an eye out for warning signs that something’s not quite right, [UCLA psychology professor Jaana Juvonen] says. “The parent’s role is really to be there as a buffer, be the one who listens.”‘
All the best to the bullied children.
With love from a former victim who speaks from her own experience and that of others.
- Anti-Bullying Week 2013: Advice for parents on cyber-bullying (nakedsecurity.sophos.com)
- How to Talk With Your Children About Bullying (safewise.com)
- Lessons We Must Learn from Amanda Todd (bullyingepidemic.com)
- Fighting For Your Bullied Child (ac360.blogs.cnn.com)
- Could Your Child Be A Bully? (cnn.com)
- Why Telling Bullying Victims to ‘Just Fight Back’ Doesn’t Work (cnn.com)