Most of us are highly aware of the dangers of child-on-child bullying, but what about the parent who is bullying other children? When our children are exposed to parents who are committing the intimidating behavior, they really are at a loss on how to handle it. After all, being intimidated and teased or put-down by other children is difficult enough for a young child, but to stand up to another adult (and probably a peer’s parent) is asking more than some of us are comfortable doing on our own. So in addition to helping your child when he or she is being “parent-bullied,” how can you avoid being the bully?
Lead by example. Remember that whatever you do, more than what you say, is how your child will learn behavior. If you son or daughter sees you being aggressive and/or exclusionary to other children, it is sure that you are teaching them to be aggressive and exclusionary.
Remember your own boundaries. According to a NYTimes article, parents are taking to cyber-bullying as easily as their children are; “after all, it was a mother who created the fictional MySpace “boy”, who persecuted 13-year-old Megan Meier, leading the teen to commit suicide.” If you are spending large amounts of time in your child’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account, and feeling the need to react, perhaps your child isn’t ready for that social media. Although most sites recommend a minimum age of 13, your child may need more time to develop the maturity to handle the open space that is social media. And you may need the time yourself to familiarize yourself with the platforms.
Be aware. You may need to think very honestly about yourself and how you’re reacting to your child’s interactions with others. It’s so difficult to know when to let go and when to reign in, so there are bound to be missteps and mistakes along the way. We’re only human. If you’re feeling like you need to step in where your child is concerned, try these steps first.
Speak to the child’s parent about behavior that worries you – never the child. As adults, it’s our responsibility to watch out for children, so if you see something troubling it’s important to say something. But be careful that you don’t do more harm than good. By seeking a gentle dialogue with the other parent, you may be able to calmly smooth the situation with a minimum of fuss or intrusion on the child’s life. A life lesson learned privately will serve them more than a public humiliation.
Stay out of the drama that the children bring home. We all remember how emotionally charged our school years were, and our job as parents is to be a calm landing place for children, versus a stirring pot. Asking our children to take a step back, to consider the other child and their motivations and backgrounds, might be a good step in facing a potential situation with compassion, not aggression.
Monitor your child’s social media life. If you see something there which is worrisome be willing to acknowledge that these public spaces may not be right for your child. Although we all like our kids to be media savvy and connected, there may be times when we must pull them back to reinforce our own familial morals and ethics. We can’t always control how others are behaving on social media, but we can limit our own child’s exposure to it without exposing anyone else to ridicule.
Jen Klein, at SheKnows.com, says
“Those being bullied can experience loss of self-esteem, non-acceptance, fear, anxiety, even depression. We may not see it …but it’s still there.
As parents, it’s our job to model appropriate behaviors. If we don’t recognize and stand up to bullying, how can we expect our kids to do the same? Accepting bullying of…any kind reinforces the status quo – and the negative cycle.”
Have you had to deal with mommy bullies at your children’s school? How did your child feel? How did you handle it?