You’ve had conversations with your children about bullies, but have you explained that a bully is at heart a self-loather? Sharing insight into better understanding and handling bullies teaches your child how to build their own self-worth.
Have you ever tried to define your most important goal of parenting? When confronted with this question, it is possible to unearth many achievements, borne from many hours of dedication poured into our children.
Consider the usual suspects–healthy nutrition, lofty academic aims, excellent physical health and hitting the milestones which define social adaptability and conduct. We all strive for these.
Likely there have there been conversations about bullies; instructing our children physically in what to do–move away from the bully, don’t give in to their threats and do not return their same kind of fire–but what about going a level deeper?
Have you explained a bully’s motives, how they might feel about themselves, the fact that even grownups, other caregivers, step parents, and even grandparents can be bullies? We get really focused on what to do and how to devise a plan of attack to fend off people who intentionally hurt us, but how often do we really have a sit down to lay out the reasons a person is verbally or physically attacking in the first place?
It requires teaching empathy–to move apart from the problem almost as if you were applying spacial reasoning to your emotions. Your children must be very grounded in their view of themselves, in knowing who they are, and in accepting they decide their own self-worth.
How many times have you carved aside a half-an-hour to share with your children the road to this kind of happiness? To making their own rules, discovering their own mettle? Doing so is just as valid, and maybe even more so, than ensuring a hot meal gets in their belly. It’s relatively simple to feed a child a nutritious meal. Empowering your children to build their own value merely requires consistent planning and devotion to the goal. Yes, it is a little more complex to continually instill the value of self-worth, one of their greatest emotional tools they will ever carry. We have to become aware of situations, to ensure we have created an environment of trust and non-judgmental-ness. And when we have done that, and stuck by our “rules,” then our children will come to us–even our teenagers will seek us for guidance and reassurance. Our relationships will deepen and our connections with our kids will strengthen.
Reinforcing Trust. Try to start by recognizing your fear may be manifesting as anger when your child does something that sparks an irrational terror in you. When you respond by shrieking, with threats that you will retaliate with unreasonable consequences and punitive punishments, we might ask the question, why are we reacting with such anger? Because we are terrified. Stop yourself before you go off the rails and levy unjust discipline. Mindfully practice growing calmer and examining the situation as an observer. This tactic works beautifully in combination with letting your child feel and experience natural consequences.
Here’s an example: Your kiddo gets caught drinking by the police while at a friend’s house. You want to swoop in and mediate; reduce the consequences and handle the discipline in your home because your first instinct is to protect your child.
Instead, ask yourself, what are you teaching your kid? That they are above the law? That you will fix their lives when they go astray, and that you do not think they are capable of handling the outcome of their decisions? This does not engender trust in your relationship, and your child is not learning to trust themselves either.
As you practice letting your kids experience natural consequences, talk to your children about the differences in households, how people are raised, the fact that many children (and adults) –self-loathers do not like who they are at all. And when self-loathers run into a circumstance which prods that tender place inside them, even if the situation has nothing to do with them–it becomes about them. Self-loathers grow jealous; they cannot stop comparing their own perceived weaknesses to another’s joy and happiness.
You know these people, they strike out and attack because for fuck’s sake, they can’t for the life of them figure out how in the world to get happy, having no idea that true and satisfying contentment begins in their own heart and has nothing to do with other people. These are the people for whom your child must learn to use their tools.
In matters of reinforcing trust, allowing your children to feel natural consequences and explaining the fact that some people are hurtful go hand-in-hand. When your child is confronted with making a decision whether to retaliate, or to try and take the higher road, reviewing natural consequences of any potential decisions will help them to make the best choice.
Use a Teflon Shield. A quirky and effective visualization that we can talk about with kids is to think of themselves as Teflon. You can throw anything at it and it won’t stick, a trait of the shield we can insist children learn to develop with certain people. Activating the use of their Teflon bodies helps them to conduct themselves in non-emotional matters (most of the time, as this is still a work in progress). It hurts to raise children at times because you will watch them experience rejection and pain inflicted at the hands of another. But you must set aside your hurt and gall, and educate them on how to protect themselves and in this way you can also minimize their pain.
Teflon is not permeable, nothing can get inside. It’s a defense against “wormers,” people attempting to wriggle their way into the core of your child’s self-esteem. Activate the Teflon and reassure your children you are in charge of your own self-esteem. This is a quality no one else ever gets any say over. It is decided by you, and realized by you alone–this is discovering true ownership and control over your person and consequently, your life.
It’s Not About Them. Self-loathers, when they speak and project, do so about themselves and their own vulnerabilities. They are very self-serving, obsessive to an extent, and so the ability for them to genuinely care about another living being is absent because they will always be preoccupied with themselves and their lack of accomplishments, their heaping amount of misery. This is the secret within the walls of every high school. Kids determine every sentence uttered by another applies to them; that they are the target, when the exact opposite is true, because teenagers by their very design, and predictable, necessary periods of self-discovery are intensely self-centered. It is the same with self-loathers. In fact, we may even suppose they have grown to become adults who’ve never outgrown their teenage leanings and rebellions. Self-loathers are people still seeking approval for their lives, their appearances and their choices from others. They are stuck. This is precisely what you do not empower when you teach your children that they are responsible for their feelings about themselves. Not their present and future significant others, not their parents, not their friends. Only they call the shots when it comes to evaluating themselves.
A Lack of Credibility. Self-loathers and bullies are not credible people. If anyone other than a doctor, parent, or other loving person addresses out of what they claim to be a concern, any physical trait in a negative manner, they are not to be believed. Anyone coming from a place other than love is a person for whom the shield must rise. Teach your children this. They have a choice in listening to the message, but more importantly, when they recognize an emotionally damaged person spewing untruths, they can put into place a defense that immediately communicates to their heart, brain and soul, this person is not credible due to their instability and self-interests in hurting others. Liken it to a child telling another they are fat. Is the child lobbing insults a doctor who has studied nutrition? Are they the child’s own pediatrician who has built up trust over the years? Are they a medical professional in any capacity? Of course not! This is a fairly easy non-emotional assessment a child can make.
So-and-so said I couldn’t draw.
Well, are they a museum curator, a graphic designer? A professional artist? No? Well, they are not a credible source.
The beauty of this is, these are questions a child can ask and answer because the structure of inquiry is very logical and the answer can be arrived at in seconds.
You get the point.
You might also have to address the situation where a person gets off on intentionally hurting another, and professionally, who should be seen as credible. A step-parent who is also a doctor, chiding your child after a few too many drinks at the holidays. A repeat offender in the family who is a graphic artist.
Then we move to the next level. Emotional credibility. Is this person stable enough to assess your child’s health, well-being, perceived issues, etc.? Are they doing so with love? If the person has no emotional credibility, this is the time to go into detail about what this means with your child. People who are addicts, alcoholics, and who are narcissistic, for example. Anyone who cannot get a grip on how to navigate their own emotional concerns in a healthy matter is not to be believed, and is not to receive any sort of credibility. It is as simple as brushing off your hands. A sort-of true or false test.
Self-loathers are people, grappling with their own self-esteem and because they are not solid in their own positivity about themselves, will project it onto you, sweetie. They do not have emotional credibility. Only listen to messages based in love and emotional credibility. Of course, it is prudent to adapt your messages according to the age of your child.
When you teach your child these tools, when you decide that you will make the time to educate your child into becoming an emotionally resilient and emotionally healthy adult, they will learn. As is the case with any action practiced over and over, you will see them steer their course of happiness, choice and positivity into rewarding habits that will be with them for a lifetime. With any tried methodology in parenting, my experience comprises mistakes; all parents have made them and no one is perfect. What becomes the deciding factor in improved parenting is the commitment to keep trying, to keep increasing parental gains over and over again.
Original article appeared at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission.