Eight-year old Becky came home from school last Tuesday and was upset with how Sarah was treating her. The two of them have been friends since they were four-years old. As her father I wasn’t worried about the two of them having a disagreement. But what Becky said next just floored me, “Dad, Sarah’s mom was school today and she started yelling at me and called me a spoiled brat!”
As Becky’s father I wanted to call Sarah’s mom right away and straighten this out and let her know that she can’t talk to my daughter that way. We have always been cordial to each other but she did seem to be a very strict parent. She can yell at her daughter but I won’t allow her to yell at mine. After calming down I began to wonder if calling her and fighting for Becky would really be best for all of us. What other options are open to me when another parent bullies my daughter and what can I tell Becky?
I realized that I had choices: I could become involved and straighten this mother out and this for me would be the fun choice. This of course would end up having the two of us not getting along anymore even if our children become friends again. Or I can let Becky deal with it herself after all it is her problem, right? But this might deliver a hidden message that when you have a problem your father is not available to help you and with the teen years around the corner I want her to feel like I will be there for her.
A third choice and the one I chose, was to empower Becky with techniques for handling these types of situations. According to our parent plan, (you do have a parent plan don’t you?) we want to teach our children proper manners, how to address adults, how to treat others, and how to handle life when things don’t go your way. Here are three solutions that can make a difference for both you and your child in this difficult situation.
Modeling – The best way to teach any trait is to model it for your child. If you do not want your child to smoke, then it is best that you avoid smoking. Your child observes everything you do; nothing gets by their eyes. If they see you hold the door open for the elderly, then they will learn that this is the expected thing to do in our society. The old adage, do as I say not as I do, does not work when it comes to parenting.
Boundaries – We want to teach our children about boundaries. There are many types of boundaries. Remember that boundaries set limits. Here are some types of boundaries:
- Physical Boundaries – You allow someone to enter your physical space.
- Sexual Boundaries – You determine how you’re going to be sexual with someone.
- Emotional Boundaries – You determine what you want or how you want to think or feel about any topic.
- Spiritual Boundaries – You have the right to think and believe what you want.
Boundaries are all about freedom and recognizing when these freedoms have been crossed. Boundaries give us a framework in which to negotiate life events. Recognizing and acting when our boundaries have been crossed will protect our freedoms. By building foundations based on mutual trust, love, and respect we can expect our children to grow up more tolerant and with mature characters. Simply put, boundaries will simplify your life.
Self-Concept – Think of self-concept as a road map for our life. It determines where we go, what we achieve, and how we get there. If our children feel good about themselves, then they will feel capable of achieving success. Our behavior matches our self-concept. Now for the bad news: you cannot give your children high self-concept. High self-concept is an inside job. You cannot catch it from others like you do the flu. But, there are numerous ways you can help build their self-concept.
If I had modeled the expected behavior, if I taught Becky about her boundaries, and if I helped her nurture a high self-concept then I believe Becky would have the necessary techniques to handle Sarah’s mother bullying her and many other situations she finds herself in. Becky would know to be polite to every adult. She also would recognize when her boundaries have been crossed. Whenever someone crosses into your boundaries you must react but this is hard when so many people do not recognize their own boundaries. Becky knows no matter who crosses her boundaries she is to walk away and get the nearest authority figure to help. The idea that I can and I’m able to walk away from an adult is very important for all children. Becky now knows she is nobody’s punching bag or verbal garbage can. Imagine how many children would live a better life if they had this belief. Becky also knows that just because someone is your friend doesn’t mean she has to stay a friend if she is mean or abusive, or even if you just grow apart.
Sarah will have many issues to deal with because of her mother’s behavior. Look at the wonderful behavior that is being modeled and the mother does not seem to understand where her boundaries end and Sarah’s begin.
In our life all of us including our children will run into nasty people like Sarah’s mother. We do not have to own their garbage just because they’re trying to give it to us. By sharing with your child these simple techniques you’re giving them roots and wings simultaneously.