My daughter is being bullied and it is affecting her self-esteem. How can I teach her to not let this destroy her on the inside?

There is almost nothing more heartbreaking than knowing your child is being bullied. But what can you do to nurture a positive self-image and cope when they are faced with a school bully? Dr. Kimberley shares a wonderful anecdote that might help.

By Dr. Kimberley Bennett

Advice

Parenting

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about the doc

Dr. Kimberley Bennett has a Doctorate in Child, Adolescent and Educational Psychology.  She has been a Registered Psychologist for 10 years. When not at her practice, she is a mother to two beautiful children. Her eldest was the inspiration behind The Psychologist’s Child. Becoming a mother taught her more than any of her professional trainings to date. Her highly sensitive son guided her down the gentle parenting path which has aligned so seamlessly with the theory and research that she studied and practiced throughout her Psychology career.

Dr. Bennett has a particular interest in Child Development, Attachment Theory, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Infant Mental Health, Positive & Gentle parenting.

 

You can find more of Dr. Bennett’s work on her website www.thepsychologistschild.com

My daughter is being bullied at school because of her size. She is very petite, and children are constantly calling her a baby and telling her she cannot participate in activities or do things at recess because of her size.  I have personally heard another child accuse her of being a liar when she told them her age because she looks younger.  She is quite bright and performs well academically, but all of the bullying has destroyed her self-esteem.  How can I build her back up?

I am so sorry that your daughter is going through this difficult experience.

You have asked specifically about your daughter’s self-esteem. Firstly, I might start by explaining to your daughter why children bully other children; bullying behavior happens when a child feels powerless with some aspect of their life and has a need to feel powerful. Children who are hurting on the inside sometimes feel better by making someone else feel worse. I think it can be helpful for your daughter to understand that this behavior isn’t about your daughter or her size at all, it is about a child who is having a hard time and coping with that in ways that are unhelpful.

Secondly, I think your daughter would benefit from a sense of agency over the situation, and tools to stop and prevent bullying so she can start to feel secure in these social situations again. We want your daughter to feel empowered to stand up to the situation. Research suggests that how a child responds to a bully can determine whether or not the bullying will continue. A tool that can be helpful, is teaching your child assertive skills. One way that I like to do this with younger children is using animals to illustrate the point. The three animals I tend to use are:

  • The Lion
  • The Turtle
  • The Owl

 

The lion has a loud roar, and a lot of attacking energy. It is reactive and fiery. This is aggressive communication.

The turtle tends to retreat into their shell when feeling attacked. This is passive.

Neither the lion nor the turtle will be especially helpful.

The Owl, however, is assertive and wise. The owl responds to provocation with consideration, without their buttons “being pushed”. Explore these styles of communication with your daughter within conversations, in play, and through role play. Problem-solve together ways of responding to the current provocations your daughter is experiencing that don’t give the bully the reaction that they crave.

Phrases that I like are:

“I’m just going to ignore that comment!”

“I’m not interested in your opinion.”

“I won’t let your comments bother me!”

“That comment is unkind, and I won’t let you talk to me that way!”

And then walk away. Disengage from the interaction.

Finally, create opportunities for your daughter to be around, and deepen her relationship with friends and allies through play dates or extra-curricular activities with her peers. It will also be important to increase your connection to your daughter during this time. Ensure that you are regularly protecting time to spend with your daughter, free from distractions. Invest in quality time with your daughter to allow you both to make special memories together and give her the opportunity to reach out to you for support as she needs it.

 

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