Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

If each one of us untangled one string at a time...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Reminder About Unconditional Love on Valentine's Day

All true love is unconditional.

But sometimes that's hard to remember when your child grows out of that cute stage or when they don't fit in with their peers for some inexplicable reason.

This is an "elephant in the room" conversation. Many parents are embarrassed when their child is the target of bullying. For some reason, we tend to think that it's a reflection on us. Most parents don't admit this but it's human nature. We want our kids to be the cool ones.

But the fact is, most kids like most adults, have flaws. It's not a crime. And when they're being ridiculed, it's incredibly painful for both of you. Some parents want to lash out at those doing the bullying, but others secretly blame their child for having traits that are easily picked on.

For those in the latter category, it's so hard to keep your head. Despite what you're feeling deep inside, fake it if you have to but tell your child that they're perfect. Tell them that the only reason they're picked on is that those people are mean and/or must not know you very well because if they did, they would see how perfect you are.

Be the cheerleader. It could protect their emotional health and blunt the long tail of pain that bullying causes.

Of course, teaching them skills is an act of love as well. Skills such as standing up straight, looking people in the eye and being firm about telling bullies to "stop" are extremely important. But they won't learn these things over night so in the meantime, treat them like they're right and the others are wrong, and no matter what, you'd rather have them as your kid than the other kid who might be popular, but in your mind is a big loser because they don't know how to treat people.

Tell your child that no matter what, you're proud of them for NOT being the loser that makes others feel bad.

When we were going through awkward times -- which everyone does growing up -- did we need to be constantly corrected or did we need someone to see past the awkwardness and make us feel like we were valued -- and yes, loved unconditionally.

It's not easy and we won't know if it worked until they're all grown up and looking past these things with their own children, but it will be one of our finest moments as parents.

Happy Valentine's Day.

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