What does it mean to be courageous? Ask a child, and you can almost see the images of caped crusaders flashing in their eyes. The sad truth is, though, we’re conditioned to see courage only in terms of heroic feats and grand deeds — in the shape of superheroes that save the day.
But courage comes in many colours; it’s more complex and varied than Marvel imagines. Helping your child find his or her preferred brand of bravery is essential — especially in the battle against bullying.
In the mid-60s, social psychologists observed the "bystander effect." They discovered that onlookers often stand apathetically by rather than offer help to a victim of distress, demurring to fellow onlookers for leadership. Bystander apathy has also been blamed on fear of aggressor reprisal.
Whether fearful of peer opinion or bully backlash, courage is MIA on many playgrounds. And bullying persists. En-“courage”-ing kids requires us to embrace a broad definition of bravery. Heroes come in many styles and the one best suited to your child will largely be dictated by their temperament.
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Rallying others in defense of someone (or a group) is a valiant way for outgoing, engaged children to demonstrate their personal power. Whether using their social influence to circle the wagons around a peer-in-need, or spearheading the school’s anti-bullying campaign, social butterflies have a special way of speaking up.
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Humour is a little-appreciated technique for diffusing difficult situations. Using comedy to come between a bully and his prey is a wonderful way for budding comics to express their singular shade of courage. As one young client told me: “It’s better to crack a joke than crack a skull.”Photo: iStockphoto
If your child has always been a born leader — you know, the big kid on campus, the one all the others follow — then their colour of courage is a bold shade. For them, standing up to schoolyard aggression may be as straightforward as simply speaking up.
These small warriors aren’t afraid to put their popularity to the test and say, “Stop!”
Bullying Awareness Week is a great opportunity to speak with your child about courage. What flavour does she have a fondness for? Stress not only the importance of tapping into our inner reserve of bravery, but also that bravery comes in many forms. However your child chooses to assert himself, standing up to bullying is essential. Failure to do so creates a self-imposed sense of impotence that has far-reaching effects. And success in doing so will do wonders for your child's strength and confidence.Photo: iStockphoto
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