Bullies can be very intimidating and affect kids and teens in many ways. They may lose sleep or feel sick and try to make excuses to skip school, but sometimes the biggest bullies they have live in their own heads. Negative self-talk can be very intimidating and abusive. Those negative comments leave emotional scars that impact our self-concept and self-esteem, increase the risk for anxiety and depression and affect the way we show up in relationships. Our self- confidence and even our dreams and hopes can be impacted, keeping us small and afraid.
When those bullies that live in our kids heads are loud and mean, it’s difficult to hear other voices; voices of compassion, hope, excitement and faith. We can recognize that bully because it uses very negative language. They can say things like “I’ll never fit in”, “I’m so awkward”, “I’m stupid”, “I’m fat”. That inner bully tends to judge them when they make mistakes or are there to remind them of what they’re lacking, still struggle with, or need to change. These bullies nag, critique, and can be loud and abusive. They put them down, and those messages they carry around undermine their sense of self-worth.
How can you help them silence their inner bully? First, become familiar with your own inner bully. You have to pay attention to your negative self-talk and thoughts to recognize that negative voice. When you notice yourself judging your feelings and actions in a way that is putting you down, insulting you, calling you names, it is wise to immediately tell yourself “stop!” and intentionally change channels. Changing channels means using a different voice to talk to yourself, a voice that is respectful, promotes flexibility, growth and positive self-esteem. Pay attention and notice the difference in your emotional response when you use a more compassionate voice.
When you become familiar with this process, notice the negative self-talk that your child uses and model for her positive ways to talk to herself. For example, if your child says “I hate this about me”, you can say something like “it seems like you don’t like that about yourself, you can be kinder to yourself and make a commitment to work on it.” When she says “I’ll never get this” you can say something like “I see that’s really difficult for you, and that you are frustrated, how can I help you so it’s easier for you to understand that concept?” modeling compassion can be a powerful way to connect to your child and bring you closer.
Fighting the bully within is an important and ongoing task that we need to commit to if we want to prevent self-doubt and critical messages to make a nest in our heads and hinder our emotional well-being. As parents we need to teach our kids to use transformative language through the words we use. Our parents voices become our inner voices, make sure you treat yourself kindly and you use encouraging language with them.