By: Lisa Cavallaro – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
I recently spoke with a mom (I’ll call her Amy) who was told by another parent that her 12-year-old child was a bully. The parent offered details of what Amy’s son had done to her son (kicking, tripping, name-calling, excluding) and then finished with, “your son has a problem.”
Amy told me this wasn’t the first time she’d been given this kind of information about her son. She’s noticed his lack of respect for her and she’s heard him bossing his younger siblings around.
Amy’s husband, the kids’ father, travels most weeks and Amy, a stay-at-home mom, is home with the three kids for two to three days at a time. She said she can’t stop worrying about her son’s behavior and her husband’s unavailability makes her feel like she’s alone in finding a solution. Amy said she was angry, frustrated and in need of a plan.
She wanted her son to speak with me one-to-one with hopes that I could “talk some sense into him.” I had a better plan.
Attempting to work with someone who doesn’t want to work with me is a recipe for failure. Amy’s son did not want a coach and he didn’t want a plan either. Amy was the one who wanted things different and since the only person Amy really could change was herself, she agreed to talk more.
Amy was convinced she needed to be tougher on her son. She wanted his respect and she wanted him to follow her rules, one of which was being nice to people.
She had admirable intentions, but her approach wasn’t working. We identified three specific things Amy could do that would help her feel less angry and frustrated, and more in control.
1. Know that your child is 100% responsible for his actions.
You’re responsible for your actions and your kids are responsible for theirs. While we parents like to think of ourselves as our kids’ biggest influencers, the fact is we’re not the only ones imparting wisdom, morals and beliefs on them. Peers, online, media, television, etc. are also there 24/7. While we certainly can influence them, kids are going to sort things out for themselves and act however they choose.
Attempting to force a kid to change is never a good idea… it only gives him one more thing to push against.
Amy’s son is in control over how he acts and when certain behaviors no longer serve him, he’ll make changes. Maybe. If he does, he’ll do it when he’s ready… not when Mom says so.
2. Don’t let him control you. Stand up for yourself.
The tendency is often to give a pass to someone (kid or adult) who is known to use bully behavior to get what he wants. We’re afraid to upset him. We just give him his way so he doesn’t get angry.
Often we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Don’t stop talking just because he’s walking away from you, or talking back, or using a louder tone, or insulting you. Calmly say what you have to say. Don’t do it with anger. Do it with love for yourself. You’re standing up for you.
What you’re also doing when you stand up for yourself is you’re showing your other children how to do it for themselves, which will come in handy in their relationships with their brother, but also with peers and the rest of the world.
If your son says something hurtful, look him in the eyes and tell him it was hurtful. Again, not with anger, but with love.
You’re not looking for arguments. You’re being true to yourself. If you don’t respect yourself, your son won’t respect you either.
On the topic of standing up for yourself… if another parent should give you their opinion about your son or you as a parent, just remember their opinion is their opinion… nothing more. If they ask questions, offer what you feel comfortable offering… which may be nothing. You’re the only one who can stand up for you and it should feel good to you when you do it.
3. Have conversations about bully behavior in your home.
Involve your husband and other kids in the conversation too. Your goal is not to shame your son, but to shed light on a topic that’s very common, yet rarely talked about using a solutions focus. You’re not aiming to shame your son, but when he demonstrates bully behavior, point it out to him.
Identify bully behavior when you see it on television or in the news. Talk about ways people can stand up to bully behavior. Differentiate between the behavior and the person using the behavior. Tell them no one can be forced to change their behavior but you can all do things for yourself to stand up to them.
Most importantly, tell them confidence is key because… Confidence can’t be bullied.
Lisa Cavallaro, The Confidence Coach, is an LOA Coach with a solution-focused spin on bullying. She helps parents leverage Law of Attraction to raise kids who are self-confident and have a positive outlook toward peers, school and life. Lisa is the author of No More Drama and ADHD The Natural Way.
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