It’s the one word that will send parents into an over reactive mode and children into a frenzy – bullying. Truth is no matter how popular or unpopular your child is they still stand a high risk of being bullied. While no one wants their child to be the bully or the bullied, it’s important as parents that we set the precedence on how to react and carry one’s self because this is just a taste of what is to come as they enter challenges within the real world.
“What I say to young people is you’re going to have conflicts with people and there are going to be times when people abuse their power. Part of growing is navigating that and how to handle,” Rosalind Wiseman said. Wiseman is the author of Queen Bees and Wannabees – which is the book that inspired the popular movie Mean Girls staring Lindsey Lohan and Rachel McAdams.
Let’s face it, kids are mean. They’re trying to figure out who they are and are testing the waters. With the prevalence of social media and technology, the mean level has only increased. Which is more the reason children need to handle some of the situations on their own. “Sometimes you’re going to want to handle it on your own and other times you’re going to need an adult to be involved. The reason I’m saying this is at times parents are involved way too much. If you rush in and get involved you’re not empowering your child to go through the messy experience because if you go in there and freak out your child is way less likely to go to their parents again,” Wiseman said.
Throughout Wiseman’s book Queen Bees and Wannabees, she reveals that bullying happens in every clique. Take the film adaptation Mean Girls for example – the story was based on true accounts of girls bullying each other and essentially cultivating a circle of bullying. Many parents believe if their child is the cheerleader or the jock on the football team then they won’t have to deal with these difficult issues. “Every group of people has the capacity to lift your child up and take your child down. There’s no immunity of keeping your child from nasty cliquey stuff that happens for girls and boys. Coaches talk in sound bites and are not the solution,” said Wiseman.
If you’re a parent, you’re probably asking yourself, “Okay, well what are signs of bullying and when do I step in?” It’s important to know your child and remember that every kid is different. A parent will need to be proactive and involved within their child’s life. Now this doesn’t mean you stalk their every movement or read their diary, but you do facilitate open communication with your child on a daily basis – this way your child will feel comfortable when they need to talk. “It’s hard to have simple answers to these things because your child has such different social dynamics with each other. I have one kid who is very much a social butterfly and one that’s not. On the gender spectrum it doesn’t matter,” said Wiseman. “A child that is very social tends to have different social context and it will look differently opposed to children who only have one or two friends. The bullying oftentimes comes from the clique. It can be present in places most parents don’t think about like texting and Snapchat.”
Parents, keep your eyes open and your ears listening. Encourage your child to stand up for themselves. Provide your child with examples of day-to-day conflicts they could have with their friends and offer hypothetical solutions. Ultimately, providing your children with this wisdom will better equip them to handle life and give them the means to build independence and confidence for their future.
If you haven’t already, I encourage everyone to read Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabees. Not only is it insightful, but it also has the potential of opening your eyes and providing your child with a happier life.