There are parents whose protective instincts kick in at the slightest complaint from their children. If their “baby” is shoved on the playground, they storm over to the offender’s parents to demand instant punishment. If their child quarrels with a teacher, they’re at the school that same day to take up the fight. In extreme cases, these parents are still insisting on immediate corrective action, according to what they consider fair when their “child” is laid off from a job at age thirty.
Such an attitude is more embarrassing than helpful to the kids, and rarely achieves anything except to increase hostility. Still, if your child is the victim of bullying, prejudice, or unfair treatment, it’s only natural you should want to help. How can you avoid being overprotective or ineffective?
Don’t rush to judge anything and everything as a criminal act. There’s a difference between giving a classmate the cold shoulder and dealing out real bruises. There’s a difference between telling students to “Hurry up” and openly taunting someone for “always being slow.” Plus, if you rely on secondhand complaints from your kids, you’re only hearing one side of the story—and the best of us naturally twist things to justify ourselves.
Just believing in yourself is a major step toward the ability to let insults roll off your back.
If you have any cause to suspect real abuse (which can be verbal or emotional as well as physical), take your concerns immediately to the authority in charge—and, if they won’t listen, to the next authority up. (Stay as reasonable and objective as possible.) If the situation isn’t that serious, encourage your child to develop her own problem-solving skills by asking, “What could you do to get along with him better/keep this from happening again?” Don’t immediately try to fix the problem yourself, and don’t dispense clichéd advice such as “Just be nice to her.” (“Loving your enemies” is a fine approach once you get good at it, but many children lack interpersonal skills to do this effectively in situations that feel extreme to them.)
Most “mistreatment” situations are rooted in thoughts of, “Everyone has to like me or I’m not worth much—and if others say bad things about me, they must be right.” Just believing in yourself is a major step toward the ability to let insults roll off your back (and to tell the differences between constructive, destructive, and neutral input). Encouraging kids to figure out their own solutions is one way of helping them learn to believe in themselves. Other hints: