Micromanaging bullies - focus on the big picture

Posted by on 06 March, 2010

Teaching your kids to survive a bitch attack

I’m not usually one to randomly jump on bandwagons, but I’m taking a leap onto the canning wagon and taking aim at Australia’s Dear Leader, who, having written a children’s book, clearly sees himself as the font of all knowledge when it comes to young Australians. He recommended on ABC radio that the parents of bullying victims go straight to the source (the bullies’ parents) if the school fails to take action. Fail at parenting 101 there, Mr Rudd.

Another F in the parenting stakes goes to the Leader of the Opposition who tells Channel 9’s Today Show that the reason that’s a dodgy thing to do is that we’re going to have a band of vigilante mums let loose upon society. That just misses the point entirely. The reasons why you don’t take matters into your own hands is two fold;

Firstly, parents get only one account of the story, which is your child’s. In my experience, I haven’t found many children are too good at giving their parents a balanced and impartial account of events at school or anywhere else for that matter. Have you ever tried to work out what happened when your own children have a spat? Triple the confusion when one of your children is involved with another kid at school. As parents we naturally think our children are angels and are biologically programmed to want to personally decapitate anyone who wants to hurt them. So a parent’s ability to judge these episodes impartially and act proportionally and sensibly is impaired because we love our kids too much.

But more importantly, it’s especially important for the victims of bullying themselves. Kids engage in Lord of the Flies behaviour in playground politics. If there are bullies out there, that’s the school’s problem. A parent's primary responsibility is to their child. Victims of bullying need to be helped to develop resilience, to develop a higher self esteem that will see them less likely to accept appalling behaviour by anyone towards them; and to honestly appraise their own behaviour with insight that allows them to mould to what is socially acceptable. I’m not saying they should take up drugs or sleeping with boys to fit in. Rather if they are too rough and hurt the other kids, if they have to win come what may in every game at lunch time, or sulk loudly if they don’t get their way, the other kids will let them know in no uncertain terms that their behaviour is not on. I'm not saying we should blame the victim here, but, rather be open to the fact that the bullied child MIGHT be abe to make a couple adjustments that make them stand out less.

Help them sort themselves out and they will grow into strong independent resilient adults who have successful relationships. Fight their battles for them and demand that everyone else leave them alone and you will raise a person who has never developed the skills they need to survive in the real world of workplace and social relationships.

That might seem tough and as a short term strategy; getting the bullying ring leader expelled from school and the other children so scared of you that they leave your child alone might seem to work. Long term it’s an almost guaranteed train smash.