As parents, we want our children to be happy. We want them to have friends. We want them to feel part of the group. The last thing we want is for our children to feel like they are on the outside looking in or, worse yet, being the victim of a bully.
Why are some children the target of negative attention in the form of bullying or exclusion from peers, while others seem to escape this experience? After working with hundreds of families, I’ve observed that on some level, children who suffer negative attention feel unworthy and lack self-acceptance. Essentially, they feel like a victim.
Feeling like a victim is feeling powerless. It’s holding a belief that life is happening to you, rather than something you can have an active role in shaping.
What does this have to do with bullying? In the case of bullying, if your child feels powerless in her life, she is more susceptible to having this experience.
This is not to say that the victim is responsible, or that the bullying behavior is condoned because someone is projecting a “victim” quality. The person who bullies is in every way fully responsible for their actions. But people who carry around victim energy are more likely to be the target of negative attention.
[Related: Protecting Your Child From Bullying (member-only video)]
The sad thing is that children who project this victim energy often don't realize what they are doing and, without this awareness, they are powerless to change. Feeling like a victim is a learned response to life's circumstances. The good news is that this habitual, learned response can be unlearned by practicing some new emotional skills.
Here are 3 steps you can take right now to bully-proof your child with positive emotional skills:
Stop speaking like a victim. Saying things like "she made me feel sad" or "he's making me mad" is "victim-speak." It gives all of the power to the other person. No one can "make" us feel a certain way unless we give them permission to do so. If you catch your child (or yourself) speaking like this, turn the statement around. Instead of "he's making me mad," encourage your child to say "I feel mad" or "I choose to feel mad in this situation." This shift in speech is subtle, but it puts ownership for your child's feelings with him. Practicing this more empowering way of speaking will, over time, give your child a feeling of power over his situation. “As within, so without.”
[Related: Why I follow the Montessori method to combat bullying]
Know that a higher power is always there to help. It doesn't matter what this higher power is to your family, but just the knowledge that there is something greater than us can give your child a great deal of confidence in his ability to stand strong in the face of challenges. If he feels he will always be okay, that energy will emanate from him. Bullies don't want to struggle. If they feel this strong, powerful energy coming from your child (and they will feel it!), they will move on to someone else.
Find things to feel good about, and think about them often.There is always something to feel good about, if you think about it. The more you look for what is good in your life, the more you get into the "feelings" that these good thoughts evoke, and then the more good you will draw to you. When your child learns to shift her thoughts from things she fears to things she feels grateful for, everything around her will change for the better. Your child can learn simple ways to take control of her thoughts and emotions, and when she does, her confidence will skyrocket and her tendency toward thinking like a victim will diminish.
You can download Jill’s audio training, “7 Secrets to Building a Foundation of Confidence and Self-Esteem in Kids," FREE for a limited time here: http://bullyproofstrategies.com/.