In 2016, as our children watched, bullying became legitimate. What we accept without dissent, what we allow to be framed as normal, alters according to our level of desensitization. Over the past year or so we have become increasingly desensitized to bullying behaviour.
Children are sponges. They watched and listened. Groups of people reveled in the abusive behaviour of one person on TV. They saw some in that large group chiming in with their own forms of bullying; taking misogyny, racism, name calling to new levels of revulsion. Shock and awe would be descriptors for some of the public behaviour we all witnessed over the past year.
Would we have allowed our child's classroom teacher to behave this way?
Telling lies has become the new normal for 2017. Without hardly raising an eyebrow, each new week provides more fodder for the acceptance of lying becoming the new truth. Media outlets laboured over the decision to use the word lie in their news reporting last year and ultimately decided there was no other option. A lie is a lie.
Our new normal sanctions bullies to survive and thrive everywhere including your child's peer group.
All of that has energized bullies and given them validity and an effective platform.
How do we sound credible to our children with the "don't do as I do -- do as I say" parenting line? We don't. I wonder how the adult children of those powerful, bullying people react to that notion. Do they ever look at their parent and say enough is enough? Or do they take notes?
Why did these loud mouth bullies with power not consider that all children, including their own, were listening to them? Parents were left with the distressing task of explaining the more scandalous news bytes.
This conundrum has not gone unnoticed and our children have witnessed all the ugliness. They are quick studies. If adults do it, at one level that is covert permission to behave in the same way. Our new normal sanctions bullies to survive and thrive everywhere including your child's peer group.
There have been and will always be bullies in your child's life in some form. But vigilance is needed more than ever to mitigate their effect. Potential bullies will have constant reminders of how to lie and intimidate. They will be saturated with daily examples of vitriolic and vehement cyberbullying. Why was so much time and effort spent on anti -bullying programming to end up here?
What can you do as a parent to alleviate this bully effect in your child's life?
Be aware of your child's peer group. All bullies have similar markers. As a society we've spent a year doing post graduate work -- being schooled in the fine art of bullying.
Bullying is attention seeking behaviour. If we needed any new affirmation of that point, then look at the way those powerful bullies crow, swagger, bluster and gloat.
Bullies are name callers. When the juvenile act of name calling is thrown around by leaders in public office, then it is a license to use the same language. How do you explain to a child it is OK for an adult with considerable power to use denigrating language but not OK for them?
Answer the 'why' in that question for your child.
Bullies are often loud. They use being loud as a method of intimidation. They also have 'staying power' with that loudness. They will be the last person standing shouting at others. Bullies are thin skinned. If you want loud, suggest their ideas might be flawed.
With the flip of a switch, they go from charm to harm.
They invade personal space, mentally and physically, which is another form of intimidation.
They lie with impunity and ignore anybody who dares challenge them on those lies. They scare others with those lies. They might threaten and intimidate your child into submission with acts they have no intention carrying out.
They gather like-minded people around them, pitting one against the other. People who may not have the chutzpah to be the leader are quite happy to be a follower, and bask in the glow of the bully.
They are masters at being a chameleon. Think of a friend of your child's who made a positive first impression. They have assurance, conversation skills, and as a parent you are charmed. Remember, charm is a bully's middle name. With the flip of a switch, they go from charm to harm. As a parent be mindful of that possibility.
When criticized, bullies blame others. Externalizing the blame is the term and bullies know full well how to shine the blame spotlight on others. It is more than just blaming others, it is about absolving themselves of any wrong doing. Bullies refuse to accept responsibility for their actions and they dismiss it out of the narrative.
For years we have advised our children about the bystander effect. Bystanders are just that -- people who stand by and let bullies have their power. However, standing up to a bully is the only way to diminish their power. And stand up we must. Children learn what they live.
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