Author Arna Baartz.
Bullying has become a widespread epidemic. Whilst there are many ways people have tried to tackle the issue, they have only addressed the issue superficially. Arna Baartz explains why the bullying epidemic will only be solved through true compassion and forgiveness.
Bullying comes in many forms, and everyone is capable of being a bully; fortunately, understanding a bully’s and victim’s core needs can help change the offending patterns of behaviour.
We have been approaching the bullying subject superficially for a long time. The moment has come to take the evolutionary step necessary to really make a difference. And that comes down to taking a good look inside our own value system, asking the tough questions, ‘Who AM I, and what am I teaching my children?’
Bullying needs to be approached with true compassion and forgiveness. This means that when we are confronted with a situation, we need to be willing to see in what way it may reflect our own bullying/manipulative behaviours.
If we tend, as parents and educators, to use even subtle bullying tactics in our personal lives or in the classroom, this is obvious in our energy. Human beings are extraordinarily perspicacious when it comes to detecting a lack of integrity, and children are often more so than adults.
Whether for affection or for drama, there is a tendency in humans to locate another’s weakness in order to gain an advantage. This is a learned behaviour and, as such, can be reprogrammed to embrace an empathetic and sustainable attitude.
Developing ‘Emotional Intelligence is key to forgoing our reliance on bullying to attain what we desire.
Emotional Intelligence is about being open to our emotional world, learning to love unconditionally and taking personal responsibility for thoughts, feelings and life’s direction.
Having the courage to clean our own slate will make teaching peaceful interaction much more effective. The truth is, without our compassion, a child that’s using bullying to access his/her sense of power will hear nothing we say.
The bully is simply a frightened child who has lost sight of who they really are. They often have unresolved anger or issues that are expressed as negative or aggressive behaviour. Their false confidence (children with true self-confidence don’t find it necessary to use bullying to gain an advantage) outweighs their empathy, so a new set of values needs to be introduced.
‘Supporting the aggressive child begins by listening without judgement, showing love and helping them recognise and deal with feelings.’
How to deal with a Bully
Supporting the aggressive child begins by listening without judgement, showing love and helping them recognise and deal with feelings. Providing non-judgmental support to a child in pain, no matter HOW well they hide said pain, is a lifelong gift and can undo aggressive conditioning.
Research into aggressive behaviour in adolescents has shown that massage decreased aggression by 30%.1 If parents can offer a loving touch, it will help release pain and tension. Children can also release emotional pain through arts-connected activities, appropriate counselling, sports, friendships and being exposed to an emotional vocabulary.
NOTE- It is beneficial to open our minds to the notion that bullying occurs due to an unconscious contract between two parties. It takes courage to admit we feel powerless to stand up for ourselves. It takes guts to admit we feel inadequate and need to lash out.
THE BULLIED CHILD
The bullied child is unaware of their personal power. They are unconsciously allowing themselves to be victimised because they are uncertain of their value.
How to deal with a bullied Child
It isn’t appropriate to teach a child ‘boxing’ or to be aggressive; this will only serve to reinforce the behaviour of the bully. It is perfect as the mediator to remain calm and teach through example better ways to resolve our feelings.
Raising awareness of personal power will not only help children say, “no, but I also don’t like what you’re doing, and I want you to stop.” It will help to give words meaning. When a child’s “NO” is supported by the energy of self-esteem, you can usually be confident a bully will respond accordingly.
The bully needs to practice compassion and empathy whilst the victim assertiveness and confidence.
Being assertive means being able to ask for what you want with confidence and respect, knowing you have a right to expect it. It means knowing when to ask and how to do it appropriately. Obviously, this takes practice, but the results are phenomenal.
Practice acknowledgment at every opportunity. Acknowledge every effort made by the passive child to speak about feelings or to ask for what they need, this will develop an emotional vocabulary and open channels of communication.
Lily: ‘I need a drink, Mum’
Mum: ‘Of course, Lily, did you know, when you ask for something you need, you are being assertive.’
Tom: ‘I don’t want to go to bed, Mum.’
Mum: ‘I appreciate your assertiveness Tom; I’m glad you’re telling me how you feel; let’s talk about why you don’t want to go.’
Jack: ‘Sally pushed me.’
Mum: ‘Thank you for being assertive in telling me, Jack. How do you feel inside about being pushed?’
Acknowledging virtues takes a few seconds, but the positive impact is forever.
FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WHO BULLY
You have been blessed with the opportunity to address an important issue!
- Don’t Panic; thank the school/parent calmly and promise to look into it with your child.
- Make an appointment to meet with the school and all involved.
- Sit quietly and digest the news, drink fresh water and allow yourself a moment to process the emotions of embarrassment, helplessness, and anger that may surface.
There is a self-value issue here, and it belongs to both yourself and your child. You need to acknowledge that you must change some of your own habits as well. For example:
- Have you been feeling stressed lately?
- Is your family enjoying regular, healthy meals?
- Are you adequately hydrated every day?
- DO YOU FEEL LOVED?
Any of these points may serve to produce tension that can disallow a true channel of communication between yourself and your child. A child that has stressed out parents is likely to feel insecure and anxious. Remember, children feel emotions but are often too young or inexperienced to make the connection between circumstance and reaction. Please do not despair and feel you must FIX everything right now.
Take a few moments to relax your body in the presence of your child. Breathe deeply and look into their eyes, keeping your tummy relaxed. Say, “You are more important to me than anything that is happening in our lives right now; I LOVE YOU.” This creates a safe place for your child to reveal feelings.
Important- avoid labelling your child as a ‘Bully’ There is a resounding spiritual difference between a child’s behaviour and the truth of their being.
You make the process of developing self-esteem in your child easier by examining your own life for ‘bullying behaviour.’ Take steps to understand yourself and find new responses.
Ask your child to tell you about the situation that has occurred.
Acknowledge your child’s anger at the other child, ‘I understand you felt like they asked for it…’ and then continue to listen.
Understanding that your child has reacted to a feeling doesn’t mean you approve of their action, but it does let them know that you are sensitive to their emotions.
Avoid interrupting, interrogating and using shame or ‘should’. Allow your child to feel safe to express without judgment. When they have finished, ask them to think of more appropriate ways to express themselves, and you may contribute ideas. For example, more appropriate ways may be to speak with someone about their feelings, write feelings down, take some deep breaths and walk away from a frustrating situation.
Construct an apology – either make a gift or write a letter to the other child. Giving feels good!
With gentle guidance, the aggressive child can transform, becoming the most compassionate of all!
FOR PARENTS OF A BULLIED CHILD
It is a challenging day when your precious child returns from school distraught, possibly even physically harmed. The immediate reaction differs for all but usually involves sadness, frustration and revenge feelings. The desire to retaliate can be intense and irrational.
More than anything, at this moment, your child needs you to be calm, rational and comforting.
One thing we tend to do when confronted with a hurt loved one is ‘buy into’ their story by reliving the drama and identifying with them as the ‘victim’. This serves little purpose on our journey to true healing.
A bullied child has a self-esteem issue; they are not aware of their personal power. This lack of awareness is being reflected externally in situations where they assume the role of ‘victim’.
Steps To Change
Allow your child to relay their experience. Remain silent and refrain from expressing horror or taking sides. Your child knows you are on their side.
Ask questions like “how did it feel when that happened?” “Could you have said something differently?” “Is there something you could have done that may have protected you?” These types of questions are designed to encourage your child to be creative and powerful.
Tell your child that together you will grow stronger and more secure so that these sorts of things will be less likely to occur.
Facing up to our part in our child’s problem can take courage. We need to be prepared to step out of denial and be more proactive than we have been in alerting our child to their personal power. The challenge is in facing our own disempowerment.
It is important for parents to make time to reflect on their level of self-love and care.
Do you feed and hydrate yourself adequately? Do you breathe deeply? Do you speak lovingly of yourself and your life? Do you feel secure, or are you anxious?
Below are a few easy steps to help you and your child (victim or bully) regain awareness of personal power.
- Make a pact to spend a small portion of your day, every day, with each other. Take turns deciding what to do. Simple, pleasant tasks like watering the garden or going for a walk is enough to begin establishing the connection and security you seek.
- Decide to take up a physically challenging activity together. Martial arts is recommended as it is an all-ages activity that develops awareness, conscious care for others and confidence.
- Listen to your thoughts; is there a large amount of negative self-speak? Spend time journaling your thoughts. Encourage your child to be aware of negative thought patterns.
- Concentration or fantasy around negative thoughts and scenarios grow unhealthy memory clusters and dendrites in the brain, making it easier to fall into habits of low self-esteem. Concentration on positive thought, however, grows positive memory clusters making it easier to follow the neural pathways to positive choice and healthy response to circumstances.
- Practice positive affirmations every day and reprogram your brain toward happiness and high self-esteem. “I AM Calm”, “I AM Strong”, and “I AM Confident” are a few examples of affirmations that will direct you into a positive state of mind, helping to eradicate self-victimisation or aggression.
- Make sure you are both drinking enough water. This may seem simplistic but severe depression, anxiety, frustration and learning problems can be triggered by consistent dehydration.
- Check food for ‘numbers’ as additives accumulate, giving a general feeling of anxiety resulting in a lack of clarity and fearful energy. Someone that is choosing to bully is also working from fear and powerlessness, so they need to target weakness; they are not powerful enough to take on somebody who is strong and confident.
- Take the time to relax with your child, and help them feel secure in the knowledge that their parent is strong and calm. During this time of relaxation, speak honestly and lovingly.
- Be sure to check your parenting for subtle bullying habits (yelling, withholding love/attention, physical punishments) and address them immediately; this will add integrity to your words when guiding your child.
- Try expressing feelings together using arts-centred activities, this has been shown to reduce tensions and frustrations and lift learning responses.
Protecting children is great, but teaching children to protect themselves through achieving the infallible sense of who they are, is empowerment at its best!
Arna Baartz is the founder of The I AM Program an initiative devoted to creating a sustainable future through the personal empowerment of children, and the author of a book for teachers, E I Ed.