Some things do stay consistent over generations. Kids have been getting teased and bullied for generations but what has changed is that bullying is happening on a much larger scale and the consequences are often much more tragic. Bullying used to take place almost exclusively at school. Now it may enter the home in a nonstop and malignant manner because of the technological access that kids have to each other. So we as parents have a larger task ahead. We need to teach our kids -- one kid at a time -- how to deal with slights and rejections.
First, here are some things NOT to teach them:
1. "Ignore the bully." This is the most heartless although well-intentioned advice there is. How on earth can we expect a child to ignore assaults to the soul?
2. "You are too sensitive." Really? Way to invalidate you child's feelings!
3. "I'll handle it." Hold on a minute. First, brainstorm with your child about what s/he might be able to do on his own to handle the situation. You want your child to develop feelings of competence, right?
Second, here is what you do want to teach your kids:
1. You want to teach them that they are not necessarily being slighted when they think they are. Don't invalidate their feelings. Suggest instead that the other child may be angry at the world at large, not simply at them. Or perhaps that child is having a bad day. At the very least, this way of thinking may help your child take things less personally and feel less dejected.
2. In that same effort you may want to suggest to your child that in some sort of paradoxical fashion that they smile at that kid who is staring or glaring at them. This sounds ridiculous, right? It's NOT. I swear by this strategy. When you smile at someone who is staring and glaring they have no choice but to get confused and their anger or whatever other ill-begotten vibe that they had intended has just lost its power.
3. Perhaps they need to learn a little empathy for the bully. If they understand that the bully is probably not enjoying his life, this may help curtail personal feelings of dejection.
4. Remind your kids that slights and rejections follow us throughout life because there are many unhappy people lurking around the water cooler of life. This doesn't necessarily make things easier but it may put things into perspective.
Follow Barbara Greenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/talkingteenage