When we send our kids to school, we expect the school staff to protect our kids from social problems. The last thing we want is for our child to experience bullying in school. We must consider, however, if our expectations are realistic. We should consider partnering with the school for greater impact.

Many of us have more than one child and can’t seem to get a handle on sibling rivalry. We can’t stop our own kids from tormenting each other. Yet we expect school staff, responsible for hundreds of kids, to maintain peace and harmony in the classroom, hallways and playground at all times. Furthermore, if you read the research on “anti-bullying” laws that require schools to protect students from each other, you’ll discover that these policies work inadequately. At best, they produce a small reduction in bullying and often lead to an increase. It’s hypocritical for us to blame schools when our kids experience social aggression if we can’t even figure out how to get our own kids to be nice to each other.

A healthy partnership between parents and schools starts with empathy. Schools are responsible to care for students from every possible community and socio-economic mix, and can have a ratio of thirty students to one teacher. They are under tremendous pressure to instruct diverse students despite their different learning styles and diffabilites. They are also expected to be responsible for policing our children’s social lives and punishing them when they upset each other.

How can these expectations not make educators’ stress levels soar and make it even more difficult for them to teach?

So, if you think it’s tough being a parent, stop and think for a moment how tough it is being a teacher. If schools are failing to eliminate social aggression among students, we should let them know we sympathize with their difficulty. We need to take steps to express appreciation for their efforts and help them look for more effective ways to deal with bullying behavior.

With this in mind, the best way we can help our teachers and partner with the school, is to focus on providing our own children with the social and emotional skills they need to succeed in life. They need emotional resilience that will enable them to Be Strong against the negative words and actions of their peers. Teaching resilience at home and in school will greatly minimize the chances that our children become negatively affected by bullying.

The foundation of teaching our kids how to be resilient is to teach them how to be in charge of their feelings when they face nastiness. Surprisingly, many kids have never been told that mean words don’t have to hurt them. Eleanor Roosevelt put it this way. She said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” 

When your child comes home complaining about being picked on, it’s important that you view their complaint as an opportunity to build their resilience. Don’t succumb to the temptation to rush in and complain to the teacher that they’re failing to help your child. Instead, help your child view this circumstance as a chance to develop their resilience. After all, the only way resilience can be developed is by experiencing adversity, then learning how to handle it, not being protected from it. It’s painful to watch your child struggle emotionally, but it’s a wonderful feeling when you watch them return to school ready to face their tormentors with resilience new relational skills.

The most effective way to teach children how to navigate tough social situations is through role playing. Here is a simple way to do it. Ask your child to insult you. Then respond with anger, making it clear you don’t like the insults and want them to stop. You will probably discover that they have a great time and continue insulting you. Then start over. The next time, be nice to your child and make it clear they can insult you all they want. Your child will probably get bored quickly and stop. Explain to your child that when you were trying to stop them, you were actually doing the opposite: making them continue because they enjoyed seeing your frustration. The second time, when you were lettingthem insult you, you were actually encouraging them to stop because you didn’t give them the satisfaction of seeing you angry. Then explain that the kids aren’t picking on them because there is something wrong with them, but because it’s fun for people when others (your child) get upset.

If you believe a meeting with the school staff is necessary, make sure you don’t approach your child’s teachers or school administrator with anger. Rather than helping resolve the situation, it will complicate it and possibly build resentment towards you and your child. They will be more likely to deflect responsibility by blaming your child. 

Let them know what’s happening to your child and ask if anyone in the school knows how to teach students to handle bullying on their own. If you do want the staff to talk to the children who are tormenting your child, ask them to do so calmly, without anger and accusations. They should make it clear to the children they speak to that they’re not looking to blame or punish them but to enlist their help in ending your child’s suffering. Kids are more likely to be nice to your child if they are treated nicely by the school and by you.

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