Part 1–Fortify their self esteem.
Part 2–Make home a safe place to thrive, not just survive.
Part 3–Teach them emotional intelligence/emotion regulation.
Part 4–Help them figure out the path of least resistance.
All these parts are related and intertwined, to be discussed in detail weekly for the next 4 weeks.
Bullying is a big problem in American society today. Bullying occurs at schools, in the community, and on the internet. Each parent would be well served to learn how to equip their children with skills and strength to deal with this ever prevalent menace. As a counselor in private practice, I meet dozens of families each year with whom I address bully-proof techniques with parent and child. A big deterrent of bullying is a child’s strong self esteem.
To begin, how does a parent go about fortifying children’s self esteem? The easy answer is to see them as people who are worthy of love and respect at all times. The hard part is to treat them with love and respect at all times. That means that when our kids have made major mistakes, lied, cheated, hit someone, gotten another conduct note from school, or whatever upsetting behavior they may have engaged in, we must keep our cool. We must refrain from seeing them as disasters, or hopeless cases, or devil worshippers, or even rebels deserving of punishment. Instead, they are little people who need our gentle but firm guidance. They have tender feelings and insightful thoughts that can put a grown adult to shame.
Whenever we teach or discipine, it is best done with tender loving care. A child’s self image is fragile, much like her mother’s sense of security or her father’s ego. Therefore, build it up one tender look at a time, one encouraging statement at a time, one reassuring tone of voice at a time. A child’s self esteem reflects his caregiver’s self esteem. If the parent is struggling with self defeating thoughts, self deprecating statements, poor impulse control, or low frustration tolerance, it is best to engage in some self care for the sake of your young wards. If needed, get professional or pastoral help.
A strong mom is a happy, confident mom who expects that her child will give her teaching moments. She takes these teaching moments in strides, not allowing momentary frustrations or setbacks to change her core. She does not fall apart when her children’s behavior “needs improvement.” She does not expect her son or daughter to be perfect for her to have a peace filled day. Her inner strength rubs off on her children.
Teaching with love means that a father’s love for his daughter is unconditional of her performance. He may be disappointed or sad or even aggrieved with her misbehaviors, but he does not withdraw his love from her. Gary Chapman’s book, 5 Love Languages of Children, helps parents to learn their child’s particular love language so that they can relate to the child more effectively in a way in which sons and daughters feel loved. A loved child is a child with strong ego strength.
Teaching with respect means that a parent refrains from belittling the child. We refrain from using sarcasm, threats, or severe age-inappropriate consequences for their misconducts. When we remember that their poor conduct is a reflection of their age, self esteem, maturity, and relationship quality, we have a lot to focus on regarding parenting. It is not productive for parents to react to children with anger or self defeat, even though these are natural human reactions to unfortunate events in life.
Trust me, I’ve had to learn all of this the hard way. I’ve lost my cool plenty of embarrassing times. I’ve been disrespectful and unloving to my kids more times than I care to admit. If I can acknowledge and recover my fumbles in the home, so can you. I’m building up my kids’ self esteem one humble step at a time. In my book, East Meets West: Parenting from the Best of Both Worlds, you will learn more about how the one-platitude-fits-all shortcut does not work and what a more effective approach entails.
It seems that my husband and I have done such a good job fortifying our children’s self esteem that now theirs are so strong that we’re looking for ways to dial it back a bit (!). No kids will mess with strong boys who know their worth.