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The Canadian Safe School Network posted a YouTube video that
has garnered nearly 3 million views in under a month. The video, "Kids Read Mean
Tweets," show various youth reading messages sent to them on Twitter that were
insulting or rude. At first the youngsters laughed while reading the tweets but
toward the end, you could see that they were emotionally affected by the harsh
When we grew up, we only had to deal with school bullies when
we were actually at school. Kids these days are so
closely connected with their peers through social media outside of school that they have more to
worry about than the latest sneakers and hair style.
Schoolyard bullies have
segued into cyber bullies, and the once-whispered insults are now blasted across the
web for everyone to see. How can we help protect our children from the malicious
acts of cyber bullies? The answer is simple: We must teach our children the
basics of bullying.
By teaching our children the basics of bullying, we
demystify the interactions that have led our children to commit suicides, self-harm
and become depressed over comments and threats from others. We have to teach
our children the mentality behind bullying so they can be equipped to handle
them when they encounter them.
In order to teach your children the basics of bullying, we
must allow them to become bullies. In no way do I mean to encourage your
children to hurt others intentionally. If we allow our children to understand
what it is like to be a bully and offer the insulting potshots that they know
are wrong, they will become desensitized to them as they understand that
bullying is just another game.
Bullying is a game
I interviewed a young man who openly admitted that he views bullying as a game. His intention is to offer insults to see if he can get an
emotional reaction from his target. Once he has an emotional reaction from
them, he repeats variations of his insult to evoke a prolonged emotional
reaction. When he is able to provoke an emotion, he feels powerful. Online bullying is typically about being a
creative wordsmith. Cyber bullies attempt to type statements that will get a
reaction from others and make them laugh.
Teach your children that others offer insults to seek power over them
or express their creative wit. Allowing them to see you
react emotionally lets bullies win.
Bullies are often wounded very deeply
When children lash out with insults it is because they are
trying to release the negative energy they feel inside. This negative energy or
emotion could be a result of abusive parents, unmet needs or repressed desires.
As a result of having to hide their desires, interests and natural inclinations
in fear of being ridiculed or not fitting in, our children are angry and
hurting. These are the bullies that lash out.
Teach your children that they should feel sorry for a person
who insults them because they are hurting.
Bullies want to define who you are
We have to remind our children that they alone hold the power to determine what is or is not true when it comes to their identity.
Most children become upset by a bully because they believe
that person is saying awful, untrue things about them. We have to remind our
children that they alone hold the power to determine what is or is not true
when it comes to their identity. Remind your children that if anyone calls them
a name that is mean or resentful, that person is lying.
Teach your children that people will always try to offer to
define who you are because they want the power to do so, but your child does not have to
allow it. Teach your children that they alone have the authority to define who
they are and which names they respond to. If the name does not fit you by your
own standards, then they are not talking to you.
Practice insults as a game
You can not pretend that we live in a dream world when we
live in a world full of hurtful people who do not have permission to be who
they are, so they attempt to make everyone as miserable as they are. If you want
your child to be able to stand firmly against any verbal attack, you should
consider giving them the proper training to be able to retaliate against verbal
attackers. Teaching your children to be sweet and nice all of the time just won't
cut it in this crazy world.
Set aside time to discuss with your child the type of things
that make them feel insecure and that others may tease them about. Note the
things they mention and assure them they can still have a wonderful life, be
loved and appreciated even if these things are true. If they are overweight,
they can be overweight and still live a happy life. If they have a missing
limb, they have other qualities that make them outstanding. Teach them that their
bodies are a gift and even if there are a few perceived imperfections, they
should never discount the entire gift.
Practice with them by sharing a few of the perceived flaws
you have or had as a child.
Ex: I grew up with an overbite and my sisters used to sing a
song to taunt me.
Promise your children that they can taunt you for fun and
ask them to watch your reaction. When they tease you, laugh it off and point
out one of your great qualities.
Ex: I may have bucked teeth but I am super smart!
Have your children prepare their retaliation statements for
their insecurities as well. For every flaw there is a positive attribute to
turn it around.
Ex: Yes I do stutter but, I have red hair which means I am
Have a roast session with your kids, teasing and making fun
of each other about your insecurities with the promise that they must laugh at each statement and they can not
take anything that is said too seriously.
When you prepare your children for
the worst the world has to offer and teach them that when others seek to hurt
them, it is never really about them, they will learn not to take things so personally. Bullies thrive on seeing a reaction and when you take that away,
they lose their power and your kids will win.