Tuesday, 17 April 2012

How do you teach children to stand up for themselves?

Photo credit - lusi
Since Monkey was small, we have taught him to walk away from trouble. To be fair to him, unless it's his sister, if another child has hit him, or snatched a toy from him, he's stood there and look mystified but as the time for him to start school approached, we made sure he knew that retaliation was not good.

He's never had a problem at school. There have been the odd occasion when a child has hit him but all he has done is tell the nearest appropriate adult and it hasn't been repeated. The school stress their zero tolerance for bullying and I know he feels comfortable telling me there's been a problem or telling a member of staff at school.

But lately, I've been wondering - at what point do I teach him to stand up for himself and to do that without resorting to physical violence? Over the last year, I've noticed that there is an older boy who lives nearby that makes him feel very uncomfortable and whilst not actually bullying him, has hit other children that he knows and has been nasty to him. Most of the time, he has avoided him and told me about any problems he's had with him. Until now, I've told him to stay away.

But last week during the holidays, he went to the park around the corner with Missy Woo and this boy was there. The boy asked him who his girlfriend was. Instead of saying, "She's my sister," and carry on normally, he came home again.

At some point, I think he will probably have to be able to stand his ground, and learn when to do that and when to walk away. I don't want him to be cowed by any type of bully, be that physical or verbal and yes, it is probably right to walk away from someone who is being, or threatening to be, violent but not to someone who's just being mean. When should that be, and how do I start to teach him that skill or wisdom to know the difference between the two? My worry is that school is so supportive about dealing with bullying behaviour that they don't really know how to deal with it when it crops up in other situations. Not that I want him to be bullied; I just need to teach him how to handle himself without having to raise his fists. I don't want him to get in trouble - he probably won't but it's always a risk - and I don't want him to get a reputation with other children or their parents.

Do you have any advice for me? How have you dealt with this tricky area of parenting? How best can I support him - and ultimately, Missy Woo too? I'd love you to share your collective wisdom with me. Please do so in the comments below because I am sure I am not the only parent bothered by this. Thank you. 

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