8 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome Bullying

Being bullied has unfortunately become very common these days. But the effects of bullying on a young mind can be quite devastating including poor school performance, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, loss of self-esteem, or even depression. Earlier it was believed that bullying happens only at middle high school, but only recently it has been found that it has become fairly common at primary school levels as well. Name calling, teasing, hitting, isolating the child from the rest of class, use of abusive language, spreading rumours are some of the examples of bullying, and in this new age of social media bullying has taken a new dimension called cyber bullying.

If you suspect that your child is being bullied at school or has become target of cyber bullying it’s vital that you help your child cope or deal with bullying, especially if the child is young and does not have the skills to deal with the bully. First and foremost is to identify whether your child is being bullied or is going through some transitional phase. It becomes even more difficult if the child doesn’t come to you on his or her own to share with you that he or she is being bullied.

1. Look for the signs and talk: If you notice any sudden change in your child’s behavior like skipping school or unwillingness to go to school; if your child becomes recluse all of a sudden and no longer enjoys activities that he or she used to enjoy before, poor performance at school; any visible signs of bruises or injury that the child is not able to explain, these could be signs that something is not right and it’s time to talk to your child. All of these could be signs of your child being bullied. Create a safe space with your child so that he or she feels comfortable and safe in sharing what has been going on. For this you need to become a good listener. Be supportive and stay calm while listening. If your child is indeed being bullied, be very cautious not to blame the child. Make the child understand that there’s nothing wrong with him or her; he or she is not responsible for being bullied; and it’s not his or her fault. Try to boost your child’s confidence as the child might be having doubts about his or her own abilities to handle the situation or defend himself or herself from the bully. Reassure the child that things will be sorted out.

2. Advise the child correctly: No matter how angry you may feel but refrain from advising your child to fight back with bully by bullying. Otherwise, this can often escalate the situation to more violent outbursts. Instead, advise the child to avoid the situations or places where bullying occurs; advise him or her to avoid places where there is no adult supervision; interact with other kids at school; and most importantly, to tell teachers or other adults at the school. You can encourage the child to engage in buddy system, where the child can be accompanied by another child to visit places where bullying is most likely to occur like, hallways, washrooms, locker areas, etc. In the same way, you can encourage your child to do the same for another child who is being bullied.

3. Reassure the child: Sometimes kids think that if they tell someone at home or at school like teacher, bullying will get worse. Give assurance to the child that sharing with parents or teachers at school or some other authority, will not result in more bullying, rather, adults can help the kid deal with the bully or curb bullying. But this does not mean that you, as a parent, should take this lightly, when the child tells that bullying will get worse. You also need to find a way to handle the situation in a way that does not escalate the bullying. Like instead of approaching the bully directly or approaching his or her parents, it is better to inform the authorities at school. Most schools these days have anti-bullying programs.

4. Teach skills to deal with the bully: Most bullies thrive on the reactions of their targets. So teach your child to hold his or her reactions in front of the bully. It is better not to show any reaction to bullying. Hold your anger, tears, and fears as these give the bully power. In many cases, when the target doesn’t show any reaction to bullying, the bully stops on his or her own. Teach your child anger controlling skills (counting to ten, deep breathing, etc.).

5. Assertiveness skills: Help your child learn assertiveness skills. Help him or her practice skills where the child firmly tells the bully to “stop.” You can use role playing techniques where your play the role of the bully and your child practices assertiveness skills and learns to say “No” or “Stop” to the bully and walks away from the bully.

6. Emotional support: The child might be having a lot of emotional difficulties during this time. Try to support your child emotionally by encouraging him or her to share all the emotions that he or she is experiencing. Encourage your child to give outlet to the emotions like anger, fear, frustrations, guilt, or apprehensions, etc. If the child feels like crying, let him or her cry in front of you. Assure him or her that crying is not a sign of being weak; rather it’s a good way to give outlet to all the emotions inside.

7. Believe in your child: This is a time when the child might be experiencing a lot of self-doubts and loss of self-esteem. It is very important to show your faith in the child. Highlight your child’s potentials and positive aspects of his or her personality. Your confidence in your child’s abilities will surely build his or her self-esteem. You can teach your child to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. Teach him or her to take a positive outlook of the situation and take it as a challenge rather than a problem. Assure your child that you are with him/her, no matter what, and that together both of you will definitely win this challenge.

8. Share with the authorities: Last but not the least, encourage your child to inform someone at school, like a teacher or counselor, or you can share the whole situation with school authorities yourself on your child’s behalf. But do ensure that things don’t get worse, like you can visit school when there is least chance of encountering the bully. Also, assure the child that adults have ways to tackle the situation.

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How to be Assertive: Learn Standing Up for Yourself

Assertiveness is a skill that can be learned, and it is a communication that can help an individual express his or her thoughts, feelings, views, opinions, etc., without being inhibited or aggressive or without disregarding the thoughts, feelings, views, opinions, and ideas of others. The term assertiveness was introduced by Andrew Salter in 1949. Being assertive can help you in both personal as well as professional life. If you are an assertive person, it is likely that you are better able to cope with anger, stress, and other demanding circumstances.

So who is an assertive individual and how is he different from a nonassertive individual? To understand this we have to consider the behavior styles of people in relation to others along a continuum (Dennis Jaffe, 1984), where passive and aggressive behavior lie at each end of the continuum and assertive behavior is right in middle of the two. Passive individuals are too scared to express their thoughts and feelings. Such persons are often shy and surrender to the demands of others in order to feel accepted, especially they find it difficult to say ‘no’. Passive style of behavior is used by people with codependent personality. On the other hand, an aggressive individual often tries to intimidate others and try to gain control of their thoughts, needs, and feelings. Such individuals have complete disregard of others’ feelings. This type of behavior style is often employed by individuals who display Type A behaviors. Now comes assertive style of behavior, which is the preferable style where an individual is able to express his or her thoughts and feelings and protect his or her rights without belittling others’. Such people are more open, considerate, and are tolerant of the feelings of others; also, they have high self-esteem and confidence level.

Assertiveness recognizes that there are legitimate personal rights, which have been described by various therapists and include the following:

  • Being able to say no without feeling guilty.
  • Having the right to change one’s mind regarding anything
  • To ask for help with directions or instructions
  • To ask for what you want
  • Being able to express or experience feelings
  • Right to feel positive under any circumstance
  • Right to commit mistakes without feeling embarrassed
  • To have one’s own opinion and beliefs
  • To object to unfair criticism or treatment
  • Being recognized for one’s achievements or contributions
  • To be able to take time to develop a response to a question or comment

Not every individual is born assertive. We are often less than assertive in our conduct towards certain people especially of higher authority, such as parents and bosses. However, not being assertive can also occur when we deal with someone by whom we feel intimidated. These can be people of opposite sex, individuals who are perceived as more attractive than us, and every unfamiliar person. Since assertiveness is a skill it can be learned and with repeated practice it can become part of our personality. Following techniques help a great deal in developing assertiveness:

Woman-saying-noLearn to say ‘No’: Saying ‘no’ is perhaps the most difficult thing to do for some individuals so much so that they put other people’s need before their own. Saying ‘no’ is sometimes considered rude, which is a misconception. Saying ‘yes’ when it is impossible for you to say so can lead to feelings of bitterness and victimization. That is why being able to say ‘no’ when you don’t feel like saying ‘yes’ is a critical attribute if you want to be assertive in life. Equally important is to learn saying ‘no’ without letting the feeling of guilt creep in. Understand and accept your limits and don’t feel bad about them. In case of personal obligations, try to diplomatically refuse your help at that particular instant.

Learn to use ‘I’ statements: Being assertive means being able to express one’s feelings and emotions by using ‘I’ statements. Learn to own your thoughts, feelings, opinions, ideas etc. Also, using ‘I’ statements doesn’t make the other person defensive because ‘I’ seems less accusatory. For example, “you are wrong” seems more attacking than “I disagree.”

Use eye contact: Assertive people are comfortable maintaining eye contact while interacting or expressing their thoughts to others. Lack of eye contact makes a person appear as having less conviction in what he or she is saying. It also indicates dishonesty and insecurity. Start using eye-contact while interacting with a short time interval of about 1-2 seconds and then progress up to 8-10 seconds period. But, beware! just as lack of eye contact indicates lack of confidence continuous staring is often taken as violation of personal space. So try to avoid staring at people.

Improve body language: Being assertive without appropriate body language sends mixed message to the other person. The way you carry your body plays an important role. It is important to have an erect posture with body weight equally distributed between both legs along with good eye contact and tone of voice. The center of gravity should be directly above the feet.

couple-talkingBe open to criticism: Learn to accept criticism positively. You can disagree with the criticism and have the right to convey your difference of opinion but you must do it without getting angry or defensive. Take negative feedback as an opportunity to learn something new or improve yourself.

Disagree peacefully: This skill is employed when one has to express a differing view and want it to be acknowledged too. When ideas and opinions are expressed peacefully so that different viewpoints can be analyzed properly during a conflict or during the process of decision making, such disagreements are considered as healthy disagreements. Being able to remain comfortable during a confrontation is the hallmark of assertiveness.

Practice: Like any other skill, assertiveness too requires practice, a lot of practice, in fact. Stand in front of a mirror and imagine different scenarios where being assertive would be beneficial, and practice your response. Work on your body language, your tone of voice, eye contact, and communication. Use assertive communication like ‘I’ statements, and ‘No’ statements. And remember to start small. At first, try assertiveness skills in situations where the risk is low and then gradually apply them to tougher situations where the stakes are high. For instance, before applying those in work place with your boss, try them out first with your friends or spouse. Evaluate the results so that you can improve your skills. Remember it takes time and practice to learn a new skill whether it’s playing a guitar, or badminton or developing assertiveness.

How to Control and Manage Anger

Anger-Management-copy-300x200Just like happiness, fear, and love, etc. anger is an emotion we all have and experience from time to time. Anger is a normal emotion and can even be considered a healthy emotion too. Charles Spielberg a renowned psychologist and a pioneer in the field of anger has defined anger as “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage.” However, if left unmanaged, anger can have a debilitating impact on your physical and psychological health as well as can ruin your social relationships.

Anger often leads to physiological changes like rise in blood pressure, heart rate, and secretion of hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline. Anger can originate from internal factors like worrying or ruminating over personal problems as well as from external factors like when you get angry at a particular individual. Keeping in view the widespread impact of anger on the health and social life of an individual it becomes imperative to take measures to keep anger under control.

Pause: In many instances anger is often an impulsive response or like a knee-jerk. Whenever you feel that you are getting angry (look for physiological signs like rise in heart beat, breathing, clenching, etc.), pause for a while, and count to ten or maybe longer, if you feel like. The main idea is to let the moment go. Don’t jump to react on your impulse.

Relaxation: Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation. These have been shown to relax the mind and manage anger caused by stress or other internal factors on long term basis as well. Deep breathing especially diaphragmatic breathing has been proven to help. Breathe through your gut, not from chest. While deep breathing you can repeat some calming words like “relax” or “calm down.” You can also incorporate imagery while doing relaxation exercises; imagine a peaceful and calm place; create a mental imagery of any place that helps you stay calm. With repeated practice you can use deep breathing and imagery technique in any situation that calls for anger and thereby manage it.

Exercise/sports: Exercise or engaging in some sort of sports activity is a good way to use up excess energy released during an anger episode. It also helps relieve stress. So, go for a brisk walk, or run, or play some sport whenever you feel your anger escalating. People with chronic anger issue especially benefit if they engage themselves in some regular sporting activity like boxing etc. Exercise and other physical activities have been shown to help release endorphins, the feel-good hormones.

angry_couple_istock_0000154_620x3501Right communication: One of the worst consequences of anger that can have a long-term impact on our life is how it negatively affects our relationships. It spoils the social life of the individual and in some extreme cases, leaves the person alone without any social support. It hampers marital life as well as work life of the individual. And the main cause is what you communicate to the other person when angry. Anger often makes the person reactive not responsive, so we tend to jump to conclusions that are far from being accurate. It is very important to have the right kind of communication even when you are agitated. So, when angry pause for a while think through the response you are going to give. Don’t just blurt out the word that comes to your mind, think carefully about your response.

Another important tip is to avoid the use of the word “you.” Rather, use “I” statements, these make the other person more responsive than defensive. So avoid sentences like “you never listen to me” use “I feel I am not being heard.” Listening is also a very important part of communication. In order to improve your communication, start working on your listening skills, try to understand what the other person is trying to convey to you. This is especially important if you have anger issues with your spouse or your boss.

Beware of negative self-talk: Be careful of the negative self-talk with words like “never,” “always,” “not fair.” When we use words like these in phrases while being angry, these words tend to justify your anger and do not help in managing anger. Rather, engage in positive self-talk like “this is not the end,” “I can handle it.”

Give your anger an outlet: Keeping anger within can have a long term effect on both your physical as well as psychological health. Suppressing anger can, in fact, worsen the situation. So give your anger a healthy outlet. Start writing journal, give your anger words and write them down, it could be about a situation that really made you mad but you couldn’t get angry, write those feelings in your journal. Whether with your boss or your spouse, journal writing could give a healthy outlet to your anger without damaging your equation with the person concerned. Write down every situation or instance where you wanted to let out your anger but couldn’t.

Humour: Use of humor can help you diffuse that anger bomb. Using imagery with humor can really help ease up the tension. If you have a particular person or situation that triggers anger in you, use of humor can really turn things around. Imagine the coworker at your office that you hate or that brings out the anger, imagine a funny cartoon face e.g., Mickey mouse and put that face over that person, now imagine him sitting in the office doing the work. Use this technique whenever that person’s name comes to your mind. Sometimes make a joke of the situation in your head. Give it a funny turn. But avoid use of sarcasm as it is hurtful and can make the situation worse.

Look after yourself: Eat balanced diet, have good sleep, and avoid alcohol consumption as these factors have been shown to play an important role in anger and its management.

Perspective: Anger, especially when it involves another person, often is the result of perspective. We tend to get in to blame game and thus justify our anger. So it is essential where anger involves another person to take a different perspective on the situation. Place yourself in another person’s situation and try to understand the circumstance from his or her point of view, you might find the solution as well.

Other: Sometimes the best way is to just avoid the situation that triggers your anger. So if you find yourself getting angry while standing in the long line of grocery store then probably you should avoid the time when there’s huge crowd and instead go for shopping when there are less people for shopping. Also, if you feel that you tend to get angry at your kids when you discuss about their day at school during dinner, then avoid the discussion during dinner time.

Seek professional help: If you feel that you are unable to manage your anger on your own, probably it’s time you seek help from a professional counselor or psychologist. Perhaps your anger is deep rooted and results from some underlying issue, or, you might be finding it difficult to stick to the program, so professional help might help with your motivation to stick to the anger management program.