Mums and dads, when you come home to your kids after work, do you ever take out the day’s stress on your children? Do you breathe down the necks of your kids, pestering them about their homework, or chastising them about playing too much? If so, you could be bullying your own child.
Bullying your own child
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Clinical psychologist Ma. Lourdes “Honey” A. Carandang suggests a more effective alternative:
“Greet your kids, then excuse yourself and go to your room. Change into comfortable clothing. Wash your hands and face. Then breathe,” says Carandang.
This method allows parents to decompress and declutter their minds after spending a stressful day outside. It also helps parents pause and readies themselves for “mindful parenting.”
Mindful parenting calls for acknowledging the fact that the stresses of the day are theirs alone. The anger and frustration they may feel must not be projected to their children.
“The easiest thing is to project,” Carandang says. “If your boss scolds you, you take it out on your children. That’s normal, but we don’t want that kind of parenting. We want to be aware of our feelings and owning them.”
Bullying your own child is about power you don’t have
Carandang, who has been lecturing about bullying for 20 years, says bullying cuts across all sectors of society.
“Bullying has to do with power over another,” she says. “A bully is a person who preys on someone whom he perceives to be weaker because he doesn’t have his own inner sense of power.”
Carandang further explains that this bully-bullied relationship is not just between the oppressor and oppressed. For her, bullying is a system that involves three entities: the bully, the bullied and the bystander. The third refers to a teacher, office superior, or anyone who is witness to the act.
“The point is, someone has to intervene and stop it,” she says. “They usually don’t, but they should.”
Bullying your own child could lead to suicide
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Bullying has always been a relevant subject. And this is even more true today, with teen suicides being attributed more and more to cases of bullying. We must consider that bullying doesn’t just start in school, but at home as well.
Whether you’re aware or not, you could be bullying your own child.
Some parents may insult their kids out of frustration or out of a need to feed their own egos, repeatedly calling them dumb, lazy, or fat. Sometimes it also manifests in praising one child over another, a subtle form of bullying that eats into children’s self-worth, thereby scarring them for life.
“Respect begets respect. Children who see and feel respect from their parents will respect other people,” says Carandang. “Respect is a key factor in the family, but sometimes parents forget that, because they believe they have the right to treat their children that way. Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you can disrespect your child.”
What to do when a child tries to bully you
However, we should also acknowledge that the opposite can happen, too. A child can inadvertently bully a parent. But what can parents do when the kids themselves defy rules and disrespect their parents?
Carandang recommends parents practice compassionate discipline.
“Be firm when you call out your son or daughter about their behaviour,” says Carandang. “Tell them, ‘You don’t have to shout or hit or insult,’ and explain why their action is unacceptable.”
If you choose the opposite of compassionate discipline — punishment — you won’t just hurt your child physically or emotionally, you’ll likely experience their transgressions again.
“When the punisher is not there, children repeat the action, the same way someone runs a red light when a traffic enforcer isn’t around,” says Carandang. “The lesson isn’t internalised, it doesn’t become part of their whole person.”
Through compassionate disciplines, parents are able to teach lasting values and integrate them into a child’s value system because parents show these values by example, which is how they want their children to act.
“That way, your children don’t test you all the time,” Carandang says, “because they know that you have authority based on respect and what is right.”
Mindful parents are not just aware of what goes on inside of themselves but are also aware of what goes on around them. This is important because this means you can be aware when your child is the target of bullying, whether at school or online.
Carandang recalls one case where a boy’s name was ridiculed by a group of his classmates. The poor boy was bullied for years and tolerated it until his mother found out.
When the mother called the school’s attention, the administration merely downplayed it as a “boys-will-be-boys” situation. So the mother called Dr. Carandang for help. By then her son was suicidal.
“You think I should take him out after one semester?” the mom asked.
“No, take him out tomorrow, he’s going to kill himself already!” exclaimed Carandang.
When other people are bullying your own child
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Parents must become observant of the telltale signs of bullying. The include the loss of appetite, a preference for being alone, or making excuses not to go to school. Apart from these, a parent must learn to listen when a child finally talks about it.
“Even if it’s for attention, give it,” Carandang says. “A child won’t do something without a reason. It may not be the reason you expect, but he has his own reason for doing something. Don’t dismiss whatever your child says.”
“Investigate,” Carandang goes on to say. “If your child is fooling you, at least you looked into it. And always listen. Please. Before it’s too late.”
In her 20-year experience addressing bullying during talks and therapy, Carandang notes that bullying has become more complicated and intense.
Lately, she admits the number of teenage girls she counsels is far higher than the number of teenage boys. These adolescents often suffer from depression to the point of suicide, likely because of subtle yet vicious forms of bullying.
What complicates bullying is cyber-bullying or bullying through SMS or social media platforms. Here, bullies can “mask” their identities under unidentified phone numbers or fake social media accounts. Once malicious messages and images go viral, there’s no taking them back. On the internet, people may have replicated or saved them.
A pervasive culture of hate
“There’s a lot of violence and anger in the world,” says Carandang. “There’s a pervading culture of hate, killing, harsh words, and insulting, and it’s become kind of the norm.”
It’s a culture that we must keep fighting to change, every day, starting from our own homes. Carandang already knows of schools with existing anti-bullying systems on campus that address bullying incidents before they go too far. If schools have these in place, then our homes should, too.
“The antidote to bullying is creating a caring community,” declares Carandang. “If there’s a caring environment, bullying doesn’t have to happen.” She believes this can be achieved by simply being kind.
“These days, you need the courage — and the will — to be kind,” she states emphatically. “I think we have to campaign to bring back kindness in the world! Where is kindness? Let’s care for each other! It’s the antidote to all the violence in the world.”
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer
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