I read a post recently in a Facebook group, of which I’m a member, and was horrified by a story about a beautiful 8-year-old girl (picture provided) who had been called nasty names by some mean girls and the resulting bad feelings had begun to affect the little girl’s opinion of herself long term. Needless to say, mom was very concerned.
On the surface, we all know that name calling can’t hurt us, and so it shouldn’t have much of an effect, but, no matter what ‘should’ be, most of us are dramatically changed by even small bullying attacks. Out of curiosity, I bounced the scenario off a few moms at a local grocery store (no names were used) and without exception, these moms reported similar attacks and loss of personal power in their own children and also in themselves, in their memories of their own childhoods.
This scenario made me think back to how I had handled mean girl bullying when my kids were younger and I realized that a major strategy (see the fifth one below) that I used almost by accident ended up being powerful, indeed. Of course, like most moms, I had many other strategies and they are listed here as well. Some of them you may have tried yourself.
WHY BULLIES DO WHAT THEY DO
First, I always made sure my kids knew “why” bullies do what they do. Descriptions like the following were not uncommon:
1) External beauty is a powerful, threatening thing to many people. Other people will denigrate you just for that.
2) If you add internal beauty, such as being a “nice” or “kind” person, then it’s an even bigger threat.
3) If a person also happens to be “smart”, then that is a triple threat and these people tend to be heavily targeted always.
4) Adding funny to the list is a fourth threat and a person with all four of these traits would require a great amount of personal strength to stand up to the bullying pressure, such as gossip.
It may seem strange to talk like this about bullying, but I always wanted my girls to understand that bullying is always about the bully’s life and problems and never about the victim.
SEEKING EXTERNAL VALIDATION IS NOT A GOOD IDEA
Second, I made sure my kids understood that seeking external validation of self is a dangerous behavior. Anytime, we care too much about what others think of us, we are opening ourselves up to danger. It is best to validate and approve of ourselves or to rely on a higher “loving” power for validation. If we require validation from another human being, no matter who that person is in our lives, we are setting ourselves up for potential disaster. In a perfect world, the ones closest to us, including moms, would not seek to hurt us, but the world is seldom perfect.
LISTENING AND PROVIDING ROCK-SOLID SUPPORT
Third, I did a lot of listening. When other kids (boys or girls) were nasty to my kids, I would listen carefully to the stress, anger, sadness and fear that happened because of the incident and then I would help my kids to problem solve the situation and develop skills for dealing with similar situations in the future. EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique (a kind of non-invasive acupuncture) was often my go to strategy for minimizing strong emotions. Being a rock-sold support person and helping my kids deal with and learn from stress was and is a critically-important piece of helping them become stress hardy and resilient.
SENSE OF PURPOSE IS KEY
Fourth, I made sure my kids always had a strong, internally controlled sense of purpose so they always had a reason to put up with stress. Health Psychologist and stress expert Dr. Kelly McGonigal says that we must pursue the things that give our lives meaning and then trust that our bodies and minds can handle the resulting stress. Having a positive stress mindset and the pursuit of meaning are critical to being able to deflect bullying attacks. There’s an old saying, by a former First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt. She said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent!” A positive stress mindset and the pursuit of meaning both make it much easier to hang onto personal power so we don’t accidentally give ‘consent’ to our attackers.
TIME FOR A SELF-ESTEEM RECOVERY EXTRAVAGANZA
Finally, I always wanted to do something big and splashy to wipe out or even eradicate any bad feelings or memories of the bullying attack that could have lead to my precious girls being robbed of their fragile self esteem and in life, I have never found a better tool than music to make this happen. There is another saying that “Music soothes the savage beast” and in my opinion, there is nothing more savage than destructive self talk. You see it’s not the bullying that does all the damage to our children; it’s the vicious self-talk that follows for days and weeks on end after the attack. As a parent, it was always my goal to drown out the negativity and replace it with very strong messages of self-control and empowerment.
So, back in the day, whenever a bullying incident happened, my girls and I would just start singing power songs and one of my favorites for this type of situation was by Taylor Swift. The chorus was “Someday, I’ll be livin’ in a big old city and all you’re ever gonna be is mean. Someday I’ll be big enough that you can’t hurt me and all you’re ever gonna be is mean.” Taylor Swift had a great song with this one.
We would start singing and dancing around the house BLASTING the music. Soon enough, we were laughing ourselves silly and all those happy brain chemicals (Endorphin, Dopamine, Oxytocin and Serotonin) would more than wipe out any destructive or negative neural pathways that may have started to form from the bullying incident. Usually, it only took about 15-30 minutes of party time to get the job done.
And repetition is key; Dr. Loretta Graziano Breuning, in her book, “Habits of a Happy Brain” says it takes 45 days to create a new neural pathway in the brain. I always wanted to make sure those 45 days were spent absorbing positive messaging instead of the negative memories of the bullying attack.
Over the years, we’ve used empowering movies, we had playlists of power songs, we played empowering games and we had so many other strategies.
So, if your child gets bullied and you notice that it is starting to stick, I recommend you have a power playlist as well. Get some speakers to plug your phone into so you can play the music loud and sing along all over the house. Go wild! Disney has some awesome songs and so does Rachel Platten. My kids know the words to dozens of these songs off by heart. No bullies have been able to touch my kids since we started doing this. Now bully remarks are like water off a duck’s back and we just have to remember to “QUACK!”
Of course, it takes a little courage, on the part of mom, to decide to get a little crazy with kids to do this confidence building activity and it can take a little organization to find and download the songs and print out the lyrics. Another way to do it is to find the karaoke version on YouTube and sing along as the words appear on a computer monitor or TV, but the good news is that is doesn’t take long for at least the chorus to stick in the brain of mom and kids.
It’s also a good idea to accumulate a small bin full of musical instruments to make the confidence building jam sessions fun. The bin could have castanets, maracas, drumsticks, tambourines, hand drums, other percussion instruments, recorders, ukuleles, harmonicas, etc. Kids could be encouraged to go crazy.
Moms could even take it one step further by developing a loud, obnoxious, no more bullying, family chant and cheers to be used whenever a family member or friend is bullied.
It’s also fun to have a bin of empowering costumes like superheroes to wear while all the craziness is going on. Moms can even help kids make flags and posters that could all be used in your SELF-ESTEEM RECOVERY EXTRAVAGANZA after a bullying incident.
AND HERE’S TWO MORE THINGS YOU CAN DO
1) Sign up to receive my four FREE slideshows about kids and stress as well as a whole bunch of FREE tools from my #MomsEndStress Program and my Stress Optimization Project designed just for moms. One of the tools is a Bullying Prevention Kit for families. All together you get 4 slideshows, 4 videos and about 10 other optimization tools.
2) Check out the amazing, award-winning anti-anxiety training program for children designed by the people at the GoStrengths Centre. It’s a great resource for all moms to have in their anti-stress and anxiety toolbox. It’s a kids’ anti-anxiety program, that is so good, it’s recommended by Dr. Shefali, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, New York Times best-selling author and Oprah’s go-to parenting expert.
Click here to see the wonderful samples of this amazing program. The program is broken down into 6 modules that teach your child(ren) how to understand, control and manage their anxiety. The concepts are delivered through 34 animations featuring fun, relatable characters in real-life situations.