Bullying in general is something that we've got to address a little bit better in our communities. It's becoming more of a problem all over the planet. The specific topic of today's video has to do with adolescents which bullying tends to increase as we get into those adolescent years, and girls particularly in middle school. When we were shooting the video for this topic at Live On Purpose TV, both Allie and Alisha who were filming said, “Oh, yeah, girls can be awful. Mean Girls.” There is even a movie with that name. Girls can be even worse than boys when it comes to bullying. It can be a big problem.
There are different forms of bullying. Think of a spectrum or a continuum, maybe on the less severe end of that spectrum we've got teasing, banter. Especially friendly or playful banter. As you move toward the other end of the spectrum, it progresses into a mean-spirited teasing, then to hurtful comments or interactions and clear through physical violence and theft or destruction of property. Somewhere along that continuum, it switches from the less harmful things into things that are actually against the law like theft and assault.
There is a whole new category called cyberbullying with the prevalence of social media and how often kids are connected in those social media platforms. Someone can be bullied in one school, and everybody in other schools and other states hears about it on social media within minutes. Within seconds. People's reputations can be damaged.
I don't have to tell you all about the problems that are associated with bullying for you to fully appreciate that this is a big deal. Hopefully, we can curb the tide of some of this bullying. Talk to your kids about this. Open a dialogue. Connect to some of the resources at the end of this article so you can be fully prepared to take this on in a way that can start to diminish (hopefully) the prevalence of this problem in our society.
Now, I want to shift focus a little bit toward the victims of bullying. And we don't want that to be our own children. So, rather than taking on the topic as a whole and how can we stop bullying, let's focus for a few minutes on how we can bully proof our own middle-school daughter. 6 quick tips for bully proofing your middle school daughter.
Number 1, keep those lines of communication open. She needs to feel that she can connect with you and share with you. This is already problematic when kids start to get into those teenage years. They tend to pull away from family a little bit and gravitate more toward their friends. But it's these friend groups where some of the problems are happening. So, it's extremely important during this phase of life to keep those lines of communication open. And let her know that we can talk about anything, not just the comfortable topics. Anything.
Tip number 2 for bully proofing your daughter. Become familiar with the social and physical changes that occur during this time of life. It sounds a little silly to say that to a parent, I know. But in school, we have kids go through what we call maturation programs. You know, where they get to learn about development, how their body is changing. How hormones can change at that time of life. How social interactions start to develop and change feelings. There are so many aspects to this, I think it serves you well as a parent to become very familiar with what some of those changes are. And then based on tip number one, we are keeping those lines of communication open so we can have conversations at home in a safe environment where we have a chance to help educate our kids about it as well.
Tip number 3, work on internalizing self-esteem and confidence. We have lots of resources in our videos at Live On Purpose TV in YouTube that will help you with that. This is a big task. And it's really more of a project than it is an event. It's a process, it's a journey. So, continue to work on that. I think your example as a parent is going to be of paramount importance here. So, whatever you have to do to work on your own stuff so that you can be a good example to your daughter about how to have a healthy strong self-esteem, do it.
When this bullying happens… Oh, did I say when? Yes, I did. I didn't say “if”. When this bullying happens, we want her to be so resilient psychologically that her confidence carries her through it. She is going to take some hits. If we are doing other things that we are talking about here, she will have the environment where she can actually resonate with the true principles that you are teaching at home. She can fall back on that core of self-confidence and self-esteem that's internalized and not dependent on all of those sources outside of her.
Tip number 4, teach assertiveness skills. Using this environment that we are creating with open communication and the relationship that you have, teach her that assertiveness is a great way to take care of herself. Assertive doesn't mean, mean. We've got enough Mean Girls doing the bullying. Your daughter gets to be one of those who is assertive and kind.
I love what was mentioned in the movie Cinderella that came out a few years ago and it was the live-action version. No surprises, she runs off with the prince at the end. But her mother told her at the beginning of the movie, “Have courage and be kind.” This is what I think is at the core of assertiveness. To have courage. Say what needs to be said, and be kind about it. Don't fall into the trap of being mean to try to counteract bullying. That doesn't make sense, use kindness and assertiveness. For example, it's okay for your daughter to say, “It's not okay to treat me like that.” Who talks like that? Well your daughter's going to after we have this conversation. Help her to learn those assertiveness skills so that she can set those limits. It's going to freak out the bullies because they don't know how to handle assertiveness and they'll stop targeting her.
A big part of the problem with bullying comes from actual friend groups. It is really important as tip number 5 to help our kids select friends wisely. They get to control who they are going to have as friends. This is a big topic that comes up in our positive parenting coaching groups all the time. What do I do about friends? How do I set limits around friends? Well, at the end of the day, your kids are going to choose their friends, aren't they? If you forbid them from hanging around certain kinds of people, that just increases the allure of that and they get drawn into that. So, we have to be careful about how we approach this.
For me, I think it means acknowledging that they get to control that. “Sweetie, you are going to have opportunities to meet lots of kinds of people. Some of the friends you will meet are going to help you to fulfill your goals and achieve your dreams and keep the standards that will keep you safe. Then there are other friends who might challenge you on those things or who might try to pull you a little different direction from the direction that you really want to go. I hope that you can choose wisely when you are selecting your friends.” This kind of dialogue helps her in this case, to start seeing, “Oh, I need to make some good choices about friends. Some are going to support me, some are going to challenge me. Hopefully she can avoid some of the pitfalls that kids get into.
Now, the final tip number 6. Come up with some plans together in this awesome warm communicating environment that you've created. Come up with some plans together about how to handle the bullying when it happens. Probably not if, WHEN. So, when someone does this, what are you going to do? Have some conversations. I think the great time to do this is family dinner. We've done some other videos about the importance of having dinner time or family time together. This is a great time when you can have these conversations as a family. Well, what about this? What about that? How do you handle this? What would be a good strategy for handling that? And you come up with different scenarios and talk it through together. Brainstorm. Share ideas and come up with some specific plans, so that in the heat of the moment, it's there. This is a great way to bully-proof your middle school daughter.
Nova principles is a sponsor and the Novaprinciples.com website has a variety of resources including articles and videos and tools that parents like you can use to learn more about bullying, cyberbullying, substance abuse, and internet safety. All kinds of risky behaviors. N.O.V.A. Principles is a nonprofit organization that's doing some great things to provide tools for parents like you. Check them out and consider donating, Novaprinciples.com.