There has been a lot of talk recently about bullying. Although bullying is very real and difficult for many children, teaching your child to stand up for themselves or speak up for themselves is an important skill when faced with bullying or even everyday situations in which they may just not agree with the other person.
Here are some ways to help your child develop the tools necessary to stand up in a situation. It may not be easy for your child, but these may be good places to start.
1. Giving Words – Many children don’t know the words to use when they disagree or want out of a situation. Watch a movie or TV show together (or read a book!) and talk about how the characters handled the situation and words used. Then talk about other options together.
2. Catch It Early – Expect your child to have trouble standing up for themselves. Children aren’t always ready and able at the age of 3 to know how to handle situations. Talk with them about how to say no, walk away, use words, and explain their needs to adults. Children need to know how to talk to adults when they are uncomfortable with a situation as much as they need to talk to peers.
3. Provide an Example – Give an example of when you successfully (or unsuccessfully) did not stand up for yourself as a child. Talk about your emotions and reactions to what happened and that you know it can be difficult or frustrating. Show real time examples of you standing up for yourself.
4. Give Child Decisions – When children never have the opportunity to make decisions in situations, they often continue a helpless pattern as teens and adults. By asking your child to decide about simple things like clothes to wear, the order to do chores, and how to spend their money on vacation, you give them the ability and practice to make decisions and explaining why. By explaining why to adults, they often have to give words and reasoning that will be helpful later in life when they talk with college professors and colleagues.
5. Discourage Peer Worship – Most parents know what happened to Britney Spears and as sad as her story was, it can be even more important to think about what happened to Britney’s young fans along the way. It’s great to watch young children enjoy shows and friends, but when you see children doing it “only because Miley Cyrus is doing it,” you may have some issues. Teach your children that they are just people, too, and talk about the decisions you see the peer or pop star make.
6. Teach them to Advocate – Ever since I was young, I was taught that I needed to stand up for myself. I remember in the 6thgrade, I went to the principal because I did not want to attend a special class because I fundamentally disagreed with it. If my 3-year-old wants a cookie at the bakery at the local store, he needs to ask. If he doesn’t ask, he doesn’t get a cookie. Teach them early how to advocate with others and you have just taught a skill for life.
7. Give Them an Out – In my family, one rule about going to friend’s houses was known by all of us. If you ever were uncomfortable or didn’t like what was happening at the house, just call home and we would be picked up. Sometimes situations are too overwhelming or challenging for young children and teens and they need to know they have a safe place to fall. Teach them the lines, “We don’t do that at our house” or “My mom won’t let me” so your children know they have an out if nothing works.