August 28, 2007

Dealing with Bullying

A Letter from a Distressed Mom

Dear Mr. Bledsoe,

I am the parent of a 3.5 year-old girl. I have worked hard to teach her the behaviors I value like being kind to others, sharing, showing empathy, being truthful. Unfortunately, I am falling down when it comes to a couple of areas and it is painful for me to watch. What can I teach my daughter to do when people (children her age or older) don't want to play, call her names, push, take things from her? We live on a military base overseas and I see this behavior again and again.

I try to remove her from it, but I do not know if that is the right thing to do in the end (sometimes I get rather angry but am at a loss over how to properly react). I generally make sure she tells the other children she does not like that, stop and then I don't know what to do...unless the behavior continues, then we retreat.

My daughter is usually so upset by these interludes that she cries. But she gets over it pretty quickly, I am having problems letting go and I don't know how to talk to her about it. Also, she has recently started making up tales when she has conflicts with kids she is playing with...running to mom for the answer. I cannot let that go on, but do not know how to handle it, I want her to be able to come to me but not with fibs or half-truths.

I was bullied and isolated as a child and do not intend for her to repeat history. She is so socially oriented though that I feel bad that she do not have many playmates (I am rather choosy for her and want parents/children with similar values) and she always wants to go play with other kids, even when an outcome has been negative. I am placing her in part-day care three days a week and realize that at some point she will have to learn good ways to solve her problems with peers and still feel good about herself and her peers without being bullied or otherwise victimized.

I do not feel I can adequately help her do this...any suggestions?


Clueless Mom

An Answer

Dear Mom,

Congratulations! You are more than half way to solving the problem with your daughter… because you recognize the problem and you are seeking help in finding a solution. That is usually the most difficult part of the battle. Please do not ever refer to yourself again as “Clueless Mom”, you are the farthest thing from being clueless… you are seeking answers and you will find them. Remember that the ideas in YOUR head will rule your world. Start this process by saying good things about youyrself!

Now for some help:

1. Remember that your daughter is only three and a half! It is wonderful that you are teaching such great values and behaviors to your daughter but remember you are teaching some very complex ideas to her. It will take time. It took you a lifetime to learn these same behaviors and by your own statements you are still learning. Keep teaching but just remember that it is going to take time!
My gosh, there are many people who reach old age who have never mastered empathy and sharing. Keep teaching. Do not assume that she has learned anything until she demonstrates her understanding by using what you have taught her but be reasonable. It will take time to teach much of what you are setting out to teach.

2. The next bit of advice that I am going to offer to you is a bit more complicated but, believe me, it will reap great rewards for you and your daughter if you accept what I am going to offer to you next. Stay with me on this and read to the end before rejecting or accepting the idea I am going to offer to you now. Start a parenting class. That is right, I said start a parenting class! It is easy to do if you use our proven method using the DVD Parenting with Dignity Curriculum ( ). On our website we lay out the entire plan for starting and running your class: ( ).
Now listen to the reasons that this will be a solution to your problems with your daughter. It is so much easier to teach your daughter concepts like compassion, empathy, respect, dignity, etc. if the children that your daughter plays with and goes to school with are taught similar concepts and behaviors! Please, do not get me wrong here, I am not suggesting that you start your class to point the finger of guilt at other people’s children or anything like that. What I am telling you is that teaching any concept to your child will be simpler if other children around her have been taught similar beliefs and actions! It is just that simple.

In order to start a Parenting with Dignity class, you do not need to be the teacher. For you, that is one great facet of our course; you do not have to be the teacher! The teacher is on the DVD’s. All you have to do is to get folks together to discuss the concepts presented in the course. You will find that the best thing you can do in your classes is to answer almost every question with the question, “I don’t know, what do the rest of you think?”

Now, think for a minute about your daughter’s situation in playing with other children. When she uses kindness, respect, dignity, empathy, and compassion with other children, the chances of her behavior being returned to her go up infinitely when the other children have been taught to recognize and exhibit similar behavior! It is really very simple.

Please consider this suggestion. If you are interested, please visit our website and take a look at the plan for starting a class. You will not have to do every one of the things suggested there but you will get lots of proven ideas that will help you to start a class. Believe me, you will learn right along with all of the others in the class that you start.

3. Next, I would suggest that you keep on teaching the sound values, morals, and ethics that you are teaching your daughter. Regardless of the surrounding behaviors she will grow to be able to make her own decisions about her own actions, independent of the other children’s sometimes, cruel and insensitive actions. Your daughter will affect change in many of those other children around her by her simple kind and empathetic actions. Teach your daughter to tell the other children what it is that she would like them to do. It is one thing for her to tell them what she does not like. It is an entirely different thing to teach her to explain some better actions to them.
Do not remove her from those situations unless you deem that she will be hurt, injured or damaged by what is happening. Start teaching her how to reasonably react to some of the cruel and insensitive actions of those other kids.

4. Use our Rule # 1 ( ) from our curriculum and make sure that you are very clear in your own mind what you expect your daughter to do in those situations and then teach those behaviors and actions to her. Remember that when teaching something like that to a young child, you are often best served by not trying to use words. Role play and demonstrate that desired actions to her. Have her practice with you where you role play the actions of the other children and your daughter uses the actions and concepts that you are teaching her.

5. Your daughter is still young but not too young for you to start teaching her how to choose friends for herself. ( Apply Rule #1 ) It is fine that you are playing a major role in the process of choosing friends now, at age three and a half; but gradually she should be making more and more of those decisions.
Believe me she has better input that you do and she will soon be better able to choose her own friends for herself than you will! She is there with those kids when adults are not present. Often children learn that when the adults are not present they sometimes can behave very differently, and if your daughter is properly taught, she will know the true character of other children better than you do! If she is being taught how to evaluate character she will choose amazing friends.

Gradually let her choose her own friends and enter into discussions with her about how she is choosing them. Offer her some ideas about things that you look for in friends. Ask her to identify things that she looks for in friends. Gradually she will become a great “friend chooser!”

6. With regard to teaching your daughter to tell the truth, I would suggest to you that she must sense that you disapprove of some of the truths she tells you so she is manufacturing tales to tell you what she thinks you want to hear. She is seeking your approval and positive attention by telling tales. The key is to make sure that you send her daily messages of love (Rule 5 in Parenting with Dignity ) so that she does not feel that she needs to tell you anything to be loved. Your love should, in no way, be connected to anything that your daughter does. She needs to know that you love her in spite of everything else going on around her. Your love is not conditional and she needs to know that absolutely.

Certainly your daughter needs to learn to solve problems with her peers on her own. That being said, I wish to reiterate that the best thing you can do to help her to do that would be to start your own class with the parents in that child care agency. If you are not fully willing to meet and interact with the parents of the children that your daughter interacts with on a daily basis, then you must accept what their children do to and do with your daughter!

In closing just let me say that I am not counseling you to try to change the world to match your daughter’s mood swings, personality, or her little personal quirks. Nor am I attempting to say that you try to help her solve her problems by trying to change all of the outside world. You are 100% correct in teaching your daughter to live in the world that confronts her. I am just saying that you can, at the same time, be working to build a better world for all kids in your community by helping other parents to teach similar and wonderful values, morals, and ethics to their children just like you are teaching your daughter!

Teach your daughter to bloom where she is planted… but in addition, you can do some work in the garden too!

Good luck and please let me know if I can be of further assistance to you.

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