Unfortunately, the news today seems to be full of accounts of moms and dads intimidating their child's classmates, sending threatening or belittling messages to parents of team mates and spreading vicious and hurtful gossip via social media. Other parents choose to socially reorganize play groups, field trips, team rosters or summer camp enrollment for the sole purpose of excluding a child or two.
Parents who bully are sometimes recognizable by their behavior at sporting and community events, PTA meetings and even in school parking lots. Others hide behind the anonymity that social media can provide. Still others work behind the scenes, harassing teachers, camp counselors or coachers to alter enrollment rosters.
If one was to take a closer look at parents who bully, I think that you would find three things. One - they were bullies when they were in school. Unfortunately they have never moved away from these behaviors and fear the loss of control if they do so.
Or, two - they were bullied as a child themselves and have deep seeded fears that their child will be or is being bullied too.
Or, three - they have tremendous fears about who their kids interact with. Demanding what they think to be the best for their child requires them to socially engineer all friendships and opportunities for social interaction.
All three groups thrive on the need to control and the fear of losing that control.
While it may be easy to criticize the demon parent who bullies just because they have a mean streak, it’s tougher to look harshly at past victims or anxious parents. No one wants to be bullied. And if you have been the victim of a bully, the pain can be very memorable; driving an adult to do anything to shield their child from feeling that same pain. But parents, who were victims, need not live their lives in fear, nor do they need to strike out at others. There are strategies that you can use to help your child to develop a strong self-esteem as they navigate their way through the school years. Arming your child with appropriate behaviors gives them the ability to make friends along with the armor they will need to fight off potential bullies.
Parents who always want to control who their child interacts with are not always evil, but can be misguided. As parents it is our role to empower our kids with the tools necessary to understand the meaning and value of a good friend. No parent wants their child to develop destructive peer relationships. However, by always choosing who our kids play with we never give them the chance to identify those things that make a good friend or not. Rather than prescribing who your child plays with, give them the social competence and problem solving skills to navigate their own way through social settings. Then talk it through with your child. Give them the opportunity to ask questions and to validate the pros and cons of a potential relationship. And the world is not a perfect place. Don't shield your kids; empower them.
As always, I’ll close by reminding you of a couple of good books to read with your kids if you are struggling with friendship issues.
The Care and Keeping of Friends - American Girl Library
The Recess Queen - Alexis O’Neill and Laura Hulisak-Beith
Simon’s Hook Up: A Story About Teases And Put Downs - Karent Gedig Burnett
And don’t forget to take a look at my book, Bully Maze Finding A Way Out - the revised edition available on Amazon. com. and Smashwords.com You’ll find strategies, language and other recommended readings to help parents .