Ask Katherine: My kids won’t stand up for themselves
My children are the targets of bullying on social media. These bullies make up rumors and spread lies about my kids, and I can see the effects of this cruelty weighing on them.
I have ideas for confronting the bullies, but my kids don’t want to talk about the situation at all.
I want to get through to them and offer guidance, but I’ve hit a real roadblock.
What can I do?
On Their Side
Hey there, On Their Side.
My heart goes out to you–dealing with bullying is hard for kids and parents alike. I’m reading two primary concerns in your message: that you want your children to open up to you more and that they’re not standing up for themselves.
Let’s address each one.
1. Getting your children to open up to you
First and foremost, you need to find a way to get through to your kids and address the bullying. The best way is to employ your active listening skills. If they’re still resisting your attempts to communicate, show them that you empathize with what they’re going through.
Acknowledge how hard these conversations are for them and that they’re in a crummy situation. Assure your kids that you understand their side — including their hesitancy to stand up for themselves.
After you’ve demonstrated that you’re an understanding parent, move on to a protective use of force. Your kids’ well-being and reputation are at stake, and they shouldn’t allow this problem to go on without trying to handle it. You can assert yourself without coming off as angry or demanding. Try saying something like. . .
“I can tell this situation is really hard for you because you don’t even want to talk to me about it. But I can’t just leave it alone because your reputation and well-being are on the line. I love you too much to allow you to forsake those things because you want to avoid a difficult conversation.”
2. Encouraging your children to be more assertive
Now we can move on to your next concern: How can you help your kids be more assertive? The answer is simple: Model the behavior you wish to see.
Young children can’t practice what they don’t observe. If your kids witness you standing up for yourself, they’ll be able to replicate that behavior.
Parent-child communication helps here, too. Talk to your children about the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. Explain that being assertive means using I-statements, like “I feel” and “I need.” In contrast, aggressive behavior is associated with you-statements, like “You’re mean.”
I wish you the best as you navigate this challenging time in your kids’ lives. You sound like a genuinely supportive parent. With your help, your children will be able to confront this issue and eventually overcome it.
Love and Blessings,