[by Scott Swain]
I'm hearing incredibly sad stories about children going so far as to commit suicide as a result of being bullied. I'm also hearing many wonderful ideas and solutions. Here is a solution I advocate:
If parents raise children in a manner that promotes (a) intrinsic motivation, (b) strong self knowledge, (c) authentic expression, and (d) responsibility for feelings & actions, I believe the frequency and power of bullying will fade.
How? What tool(s) can teach this? There are quite a few out there. Conscious Discipline (CD) and Nonviolent Communication (NVC) are two that I see working. CD and NVC have much overlap. I'm going to focus on NVC here as one tool I see having a positive effect in the work I do with children. How?
(a) Intrinsic motivation - instead of reward/punishment, we use conflict and other situations as opportunities to motivate kids to act based on what is good for them (meets their value-needs) as long as it doesn't harm others.
(b) Strong self knowledge - goes hand in hand with intrinsic motivation. In fact, teaching one teaches the other. Example: "You pushed Jimmy. We don't push our friends. Let's get your value-need for power met by kicking a ball." Note here we are helping the child recognize an internal [normal human] need. We're not demonizing the need (so the child will be more likely to share about it without shame), and we are showing them healthy ways to get that value-need met. Another example: "Annie your screaming is hurting my ears. Are you wanting to be seen and heard? (Optimal to ask if not sure)." Then we think up actions to offer the child to get that value-need met: "Would you like to sing a song?" Please note this method respects the value-needs of the parent as much as the value-needs of the child so no, this is not "permissive parenting" that I'm advocating. CD & NVC promote use of natural consequences and accountability/responsibility.
A note on "value-need for power": From the time a child wakes up to the time they go to bed, most children are being controlled and told what to do. Is it a surprise that quite often children "act out" in expressions of value-need for power? Is the "sudden" onset of the use of the word "no" surprising?
(c) Authentic expression - when we stop demonizing or moralizing children's behavior, they stop having reasons to lie, increasing the trust and bond between patent & child, and increasing the likelihood they will speak full truth to us and to others.
|(d) Responsibility for feelings & actions - NVC and CD explicitly teach us that we are not responsible for other people's feelings (they are responsible for their own), leading to: people can not hurt us with their words; we have the choice as to how we allow their words to affect us. NVC trains this in many ways, including the practice of hearing an "attack" and translating in our heads to something like "I hear you calling me a 'douche'. Is your need for ______ not getting met?" We might guess their unmet need is to be heard or to get respect.
|In NVC, "needs" are the basic human "wants" that underlie all of our feelings. If a person is scared, the underlying need might be security. If lonely, the need might be connection. If they are angry, the need might be respect or fairness. Here is a short list of values-needs. "Values" can often be used in place of "needs".
How can growing up in an environment like this inure a person to bullying? A person who has a strong sense of self (knowing how to identify their own values-needs and being used to speaking their values-needs and having them recognized and respected [NOT obeyed]) means the person's self value relies less on the opinions of other people
Again, on the surface I know this looks like "permissive parenting". It is not. I urge you, especially those of you into the Non Aggression Principle (NAP), to look into NVC as a methodology of liberating us from speaking in ways that promote dependence and emotional slavery. Let's raise a new generation of children whose motivation comes from within and who are adept at hearing and understanding the values and needs of others, thus increasing their immunity to bullying and decreasing their desire to ever be a bully.
Here is a short animation
showing these techniques in action. I know to many this may seem like "permissive parenting" but I invite you to notice the mom doesn't actually "give in". Instead she spends time letting her son know she empathizes with his needs and - very important - eventually lets him know that his time is up and they are going to do what must get done.
Also: I recommend Kung Fu or some other self-defense learning be made available because physical bullying is a thing, too.