Her offense? Protecting her niece, Pearl, from another kid.
“I love her so much,” she shared. “I’ve been banned from two parks in the area because this kid was mean to my niece and I yelled at the child and the child’s mother.”
No one wants their niece — or their own child — to be the victim of bullying, but is it possible that Kelly took things too far? As parents (or aunts!), it is difficult to determine what is the best course of action when we discover our child is being bullied or teased. As it turns out, making a scene in front of her niece may have been the worst way for Kelly to respond.
Bullying is a serious problem in schools. Research suggests as many as 1 out of every 3 kids has been bullied at some point at school. One of the reasons decreasing the rates of bullying has become so difficult is that prevention isn’t simple. While most parents’ first instinct may be to march up to the school and confront the bully or their parents, making public scene of defending your child could actually do more harm than good. If our children are embarrassed by our response or made to feel as if they aren’t capable of defending themselves, they are much more likely to hide instances of bullying in the future.
If parents shouldn’t directly involve themselves in the conflict, how can they protect their children from teasing or bullying? A behind-the-scenes approach to parenting a bullied child seems to be best. Research proves that parenting style is directly correlated to a child’s likelihood of being bullied at school, but it is what happens at home that really matters the most. Here is what the households of kids who are more resilient to bullying have in common:
- Children who are confident that their parents support them are typically more self-assured in their unique identity, which empowers them to stand up to bullying in school. These kids also know they can turn to their parents if they are having a difficult time with someone at school.
- Parenting styles that are characterized as warm and loving produce kids who are confident enough to stand up to bullies.
- The children of parents who make an effort to teach important social skills and show how to build friendships are more likely to have strong relationships at school that shield them from potential bullying.
- Parents of children who are more resilient to bullying are actively involved in their schooling, communicating openly with the teachers and the parents of other children in the school.
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As parents (and aunts and uncles and other loved ones), it is our responsibility to do everything we can to keep our children safe. But it is also our responsibility to train our children to be confident and self-assured, able to solve their own problems as they grow older and more independent.
Even though jumping in and defending our kid may seem like the best choice in the heat of the moment, it doesn’t provide them with the solutions they need if they are bullied again in the future. Instead, let’s talk to our kids about what they can do in the face of bullying. Let’s make sure they know they have the power to speak up for themselves and ask for help when things are getting out of hand.