When my family first moved back to Westchester County, I was concerned about the stigma of being “the new kid”—as any good parent would be. I moved countless times as a child and I remember the teasing like it was yesterday.
So I had to make sure that I held back my insecurities and allowed my kids to have their own experiences. As many of you might know, that isn’t easy. It feels like you are letting your child walk straight into a hole that you already knew was there. But sometimes they have to find out on their own, so that when they grow up—and you aren’t around to remind them—they remember to look where they’re going.
A goal of every parent is to raise a child who is never bullied. Unfortunately, that isn’t something that’s within our control. It’s not a realistic expectation that they’ll go through life without conflict. What we can do is prepare them for the real world, so they respond to those conflicts with confidence and good character.
Once I dropped my kids off at their new schools, I had to have faith that the lessons I taught them would pay off. Being bully-proof doesn’t have anything to do with controlling the behavior of others, and it doesn’t mean that your child will never experience some level of bullying, although confidence usually increases their chances of avoiding it.
In a past article, I provided a list of the “do’s” that help me bully-proof my children. Go for more details. The following list will give you an idea of what I consider to be “bully-proof.”
Bully-proof means that over time your children:
- learn that their safety and well-being is first on the priority list, and that their parents and school administrators will take appropriate action if necessary.
- have the confidence to speak up if someone is bullying them, and knows that they should never feel badly about doing so.
- feel that they are heard and taken seriously.
- are clear that if someone does bully them, it doesn’t make them a “loser” or the “bottom of the food chain.” It reflects on the character of the other person.
- understand that the negative behavior of others should not weaken their own character.
- develop an identity outside of school, making their world bigger and preparing for their future.
- know that bad experiences can sometimes fuel great achievement if they channel their feelings through art, writing, music, academics, sports or other activities.
- are focused on their future and know that they can create the lives they want that don't have to include people who are abusive. It does get better.
- choose friends based on common interests and character.
- can embrace joy and develop a passion for something positive.
- understand they cannot change the behavior of others. They can only choose how they respond to it. And how they respond can greatly influence their future.
- avoid revenge mentality.
- begin to develop an inner confidence that is not based on the opinions of others.
Instilling these qualities in our children is an ongoing process, and I take it one day at a time. As I have said before, parenting is hard.
Since the beginning of the school year, like any family, we’ve had our share of ups and downs. And there is no guarantee that we won't have to deal with bullying in the future. But we’ve worked together to get through any conflicts with our self-esteem and character intact.
A few days ago, as I was walking by my son’s room, I caught a glimpse of him working on a few personal projects. He was also having a conversation with a friend who has similar interests. He seemed so content and happy that the memories of helping him through his ordeal with bullying—just a few years ago—began to fade a little.
That night he came up to me smiling and said, “Mom, I love life.”
He was quite serious, and hearing him say something like that—after all he'd been through—gave me hope.
To me, that is bully-proof.
Taryn Grimes-Herbert is the author of the "I've Got" interactive book series for children. Calling upon her professional acting experience on Broadway, film and television, she takes her books and workshops into classrooms hoping to help kids build character, develop empathy, learn to communicate respectfully, and focus on the future, through creative dramatics activities. She is also a public speaker and screenwriter. For more information, visit http://www.ivegotbooks.net.