Side With the Bully and Blame the Victim?

I was having a conversation with a good friend this weekend, whose child also has anxiety, and we wanted to know if other parents who have children with anxiety have experienced the same dilemma that we have experienced. We thought it would be a good topic of discussion and so I told her that I would blog about it and see if we would get any feedback.

Both of our children know another student at school who will not leave them alone.  The other student is bullying them in some way, but our child will not stand up for themselves.  We’ve both encouraged our children to tell the other child to leave them alone, but both of our children say that they don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings.

We know that both of our children are very sensitive and that is what makes it difficult for them to confront someone else. Their worries make it more painful for them to confront the bully than to just deal with it.  However, they still feel sad about the situation.

In the past, when my son was bullied (by this same student) to the degree of sexual abuse. I talked to the appropriate school officials about it but it seemed like they wanted to pass the buck.  They didn’t want to confront the student and their family. The responsibility fell on me to finally contact child protective services.

My point is that when I tried to make a difference for my child at school the school officials asked me to teach my child to stand up for himself.  They didn’t address the bully.  Their only concern was for my child to stand up for himself.  I already knew my child needed help standing up for himself and I was already addressing that issue.

So my question is have you experienced something similar and why do so many people side with the bully and blame the victim?  I would love to hear your feedback.

How to Respond to a Bully

I attended a “stop bullying” workshop this weekend with my eleven year old son and my eight year old daughter. In the class the leaders taught the children that there were all types of bullies. They said that there were fat bullies, thin bullies, tall bullies short bullies, girl bullies, boy bullies, adult bullies, and child bullies, but all bullies were insecure. The leaders also suggested that most bullies want attention, and that most bullies don’t feel good about themselves. Below are the tips that I learned from the workshop and that I thought were the most realistic for an anxious child to apply to their own situations.

1. Ignore the person who is bullying you.  This one was my favorite because this tactic takes the wind out of the bully’s sail. The leaders of the workshop acted out a possible bullying scenario and it was funny to watch what happens to the bully in a situation like this. The victim pretended not to hear the bully and walked away and all of a sudden the bully was the one that looked uncomfortable and insecure. This tactic works even better if there are people around because the other people will all be staring at the bully which will add to his or her discomfort.

2. Agree with the bully. If the bully tells you that your are fat agree with them by saying something like, “Yeah, I am getting fat I need to stop eating so many lucky charms.” The bully will be stumped and will learn that he can not bring you down.  Most bullies want you to feel as insecure as they do. When they realize that they can’t do that to you they will pick on someone else.

3. Laugh at yourself. If the bully laughs because you tripped, make fun of how you looked when you tripped. The bully doesn’t win.

4. Call out to a friend or an adult that you see. It brings attention to yourself and will cause the bully to stop.

5. At a last resort take a defensive stance and make a lot of noise about it. This will tell the bully that you mean business.

After the class my small fair-haired daughter wore her stop bullying t-shirt everywhere we went and I saw people read her shirt and smile. Even the biggest toughest looking boys looked at her with respect. She was oblivious to people’s reactions but I was not and I saw how much respect she got by wearing that opinionated shirt. She radiated confidence.

Ten Questions You Need to Ask Your Anxious Child

Sometimes we ask ourselves the question, “What is wrong with my child?  Why does my child seem different than other children?”  It may seem like our child is struggling with making friends or with adjusting to new surroundings but we just can’t put our finger on why. There are some questions that you can ask your child that can help you to determine if your child needs to see a professional. 

To find out if your child might need help coping with anxiety you can ask the following questions.  If the answers to these questions are mostly yes, then you will want to take your child to see a counselor.

1. Do you feel like your heart races sometimes? When? Ask them to pay attention to when this happens and then let you know what they find out.

2. Does your face feel hot and/or get red sometimes? When?

3. Do you hate feeling like something is out of your control? If so tell me about that.

4. Do you have nightmares more than once a week?

5. Do you find it hard to talk to people at school? Do you keep your hand down instead of raising it when you know the answer to a question?

6. Are you afraid of hurting other peoples feelings? If yes, give me an example of a time when you didn’t say something to someone because you were afraid of hurting thier feelings?

7. Are there things that you wish you could do but you don’t do them because you are afraid to? If yes, what are these things?

8. When you get angry at me for asking you to do something is it because you fear that you won’t be able to do it? Or because you fear that it will be too difficult for you to do?

9. Do you get stomach aches and/or headaches?  Do they happen more when you think about something specific? If yes, tell me about that.

10. Do kids at school pick on you?  If yes, tell me about it?

Just by asking these questions you are opening up the door to conversation between you and your child.  When you respond to your child try to use the words, “I understand how you could feel that way, or that makes sense.”  Try to avoid statements like, “You should be more _____.  or Why don’t you just ______.”  Children with anxiety can feel like they are inadequate if they are unable to meet your expectations or follow your advice.  Instead of giving advice ask your child what they think would help them.  Consider taking your child to see a counselor who can teach your child coping skills to use when their anxiety gets to them. Your child will be more willing to come to you with concerns if they feel like you will listen to them. 

Take Care. Vivian