Q: My daughter has been bullied in the past and has had to move school twice because of it. The other day my wife told me that my daughter’s friend, who lives close by, has started to bully her too. I am beginning to think it has something to do with my daughter and not the bullies. How can we solve this problem?
Running through all families are a complex set of inter-relationships. There’s your relationship with your wife, then there’s the relationship you have with your daughter, your wife’s relationship with your daughter, factor in other children, their sibling relationships... and it goes on. Pretty complex. Then when you add how we as children, and then as adults, interact with those around us it makes for an incredible inter-personal web, which ultimately forms our society.
So, let’s take a look at what could be happening here. You tentatively suggest this issue could lie with your daughter and not those who are suspected of bullying her. This is known as someone who has a perpetual victim predisposition. These children (and adults) believe they are the victim in virtually all situations they encounter in life.
Children in particular need to know that failing a science test for example, or coming last in a track event, doesn’t make them a victim. Failure, rejection, and disappointment are part of life. Therefore, helping your child learn that taking responsibility for the way she feels, thinks and behaves is vital so that she doesn’t move into adult life insisting she’s a victim of horrible people and terrible circumstances.
You and your wife need to have a conversation (strictly not an argument!), completely out of sight and earshot of your daughter. You need to set out, maybe with the aid of an agenda, and to be as dispassionate as possible, to work though only the facts. This shouldn’t be a forensic investigation; it should be, however, a chance for you to review what you know about that happened in the past, and what is purported to be happening now. From this exercise, a pattern will emerge that will form the basis of how you act next.
If it transpires that you both agree that your daughter is being bullied and is indeed a helpless victim of mean people, you need to share your findings and concerns with the primary stakeholders in her welfare, so that the bullies can be dealt with properly. Naturally, if there’s online bullying at play, this requires alternative action, which I’ve written about extensively before.
However, if you conclude that your daughter could have a perpetual victim predisposition, then here are my tips to begin to readdress the balance and bring some clarity to your parenting approach. Remember, I always say, as parents, a united front is the one and only approach you should be displaying.
Teach her problem-solving skills. Children who lack this ability are far more likely to take a passive approach in life. If she doesn’t know how to do something, she may resign herself to failing without even trying to find the answer. Or, from a physical perspective, she may not make the sports team and then may conclude she’s a hopeless athlete. Show her that by using her problem-solving ability she can take action when things aren’t working out. And those who take action when faced with adversity are far less likely to see themselves as helpless victims. In a nutshell, children with good problem-solving skills are able to prevent small stumbling blocks from developing into major obstacles.
Teach her assertiveness. Help her learn to avoid a perpetual victim predisposition by showing her how to proactively deal with difficult situations, such as encounters with potential bullies wherever this may occur.
Teach her how to deal with her uncomfortable emotions. These are emotions such as anxiety, anger, sadness and fear. By developing her coping skills, she is far less likely to insist that minor events are catastrophic ones. I always say you should discipline a child’s behaviour and not the emotion, by making her aware that emotions are fine, but it’s important to deal with those emotions in an appropriate and proportionate manner.
Bullying is a multifaceted topic that takes up a disproportionate amount of space in my inbox. Sadly, it appears to be on the rise; however, help and support is out there. In your case I’m confident this issue can be resolved, but only by working together and only by properly ‘seeing’ what’s going on… not just looking.
Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based lifecoach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, and author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting (russellhemmings.co.uk). Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to email@example.com.