So standing up with a victim means standing up to your own feelings of wanting to be safe by getting away or siding with the apparently stronger bully. It is easier to stand with the victim if you think of it as a way of being brave or being a hero. And it’s easier if you have thought about it before and even have a plan in mind for how to do it safely if the situation arises. While reading stories to your children, you may find examples of situations where a character is being picked on and their friends either run away or join in the teasing or stand up with their friend. Harry Potter novels are full of this kind of thing. Your child’s natural empathy and imagination will allow them to put themselves in the role of these characters and give you an opportunity to discuss what it might mean to be a hero in standing up with your friend in this kind of dilemma. Standing up with a victim who is not a friend is even more admirable and deserving of the hero title.
You may even have an opportunity to demonstrate this kind of support for victims in your own family. If one sibling or any family member calls another stupid or fat or the insult du jour, instead of yelling at the offender and using your parental power against the bully, you can simply say to the victim, “I don’t think you are stupid. I think Joey was just feeling mad.” If the bully is your spouse, or your adult sister, or your father, you can privately tell them that you think their comment was hurtful and not helpful and that you will privately reassure the victim that you don’t agree. This avoids humiliating the adult in front of the child, which can cause problems.
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The idea of being a hero by being a faithful ally to victims of bullying can be something you bring up from time to time. Your child may remember it and act on it when the situation arises. If so, she and you can be proud.
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Brock Hansen, LCSW author of Shame and Anger: the Criticism Connection www.ShameAndAnger.net