I was horrified to learn that 11-year-old Sebastien De La Cruz, who sang the national anthem in his mariachi costume at the NBA finals, was bullied on Twitter. To the child’s credit, his response to all the bullying was incredible.
“I think the people were talking bad because of what I was wearing, and it’s not my fault. It’s what I love, and I’m just proud to be a mariachi singer. It’s their opinion, actually, and if they don’t like mariachi, that’s their problem. I love it.”
Way ta’ go Sebastien. Don’t let the bullies get to you. But do cyber bullies get to people?
Of course, but we only here about it when one of the victims commits suicide.
So what can you do to psychologically respond to this growing problem of web meanness? Part of the help is preventing a bully from ever developing.
One response it to not take it personally. This is incredibly hard to do unless you have help from your parents. The power of words are just that–powerful! And while you have to teach your kids not to take it personally and focus on the lack of empathy and kindness of the perpetrator, words hurt.
So parents, talk about what was said and let your kids know that out of the heart, the mouth speaks. Perhaps this is where we help our kids apply the words of Jesus to bless those who curse us. Help your child understand that the person who creates such meanness and hides behind the web to not face his targets has heart problems that parents need to address. All we can do is control our response to the meanness of others, but we can put it in perspective–it’s a lack of parenting! The first time my child ever tried to disparage another child, I was on him. The lesson–put yourself in his place. How would it feel? Would you like this?
Empathy can be taught. Here is what you do:
1) Help your child distinguish his/her feelings from others.
2) Talk about another perspective–what does it feel like for the other person. You have to prompt this at an early age.
3) Help your child regulate his/her emotional responses. Because you feel something, doesn’t mean you act on it. Use your head, not your impulse.
4) Teach your child to bounce back from distress. This means getting inside the emotional responses of your children, letting them express them, but helping them regulate them so they learn how to manage emotions early on in life.
5) Meet your child’s emotional needs at home–research proves that kids whose needs are met and whose attachments are strong, do better at handling distress.
6) Repeatedly tell your child not to give power to others to define who he/she is–our identity comes from God and those who know us and can speak into our lives!
7) Model empathy daily. If children see parents being empathetic, they will develop the response.
8) Talk about how difficult it must be for others who get teased and bring it to the minds of your kids. Point out examples and the label the bully as mean.
9) Teach self-control. When you are upset or hurt, you don’t lash out at others. Stay silent and think before you speak.
10) Provide kids a moral perspective. Part of being one of Christ’s is to treat others as you would want to be treated. It’s the Golden Rule which has been greatly tarnished. Do unto others and you would want them to do to you.