Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Raising Resilient Children

FACT: The world is full of nasty people.

This was really brought home to me when I was about seven months pregnant with my son and on my daily walk around the block. I was enjoying the later summer sun on my back and the serenity of the Bell birds chirping in the trees overhead when a charming young man drove by in a ute, complete with the a Eureka Stockade bumper sticker, yelling: ‘Go back home you black *****! And take your effing baby with yah!’

And to make sure, I got the message, he pelted me with the core of an eaten apple. And since he was drunk, his aim was pretty poor and the apple core landed in someone’s garden.

Delightful, really.

Just to be clear on this. I am brown. More of a latte colour than black.  He should be sent to back of the class for the lack of originality! If you want me to take you seriously as a racist bigot, come up with something more original rather than ‘black *****’ or ‘go back home’. If I had a dollar for every time I have been called that over last twenty-five years, I’d be able to pay my gas bill for this awfully cold Melbourne winter.

Racists don’t bother me. They really don’t. Neither do bullies, rude people or Machiavellian bosses. After thirty-something years, I have built a defence system. It is based on the understanding that people who belittle, bully or harass someone else are fundamentally unhappy themselves. Nobody who is happy can spread such unhappiness.

But I worry. I worry about my child, and not just from the racists. But the bullies and the nasties out there. A part of me desperately wants to jump in and protect him,  then another part of me wants to raise him so that the nasties won’t bother him. Besides, there is a bucket load of evidence that shows that victims of bullying are on a pathway to poor mental health. Having suffered depression, I’d like to spare my child such torture. So, I have been reading ‘Tough Times’ and ‘Raising Resilient Kids’ by Drs. Brooks and Goldstein.

Central to raising a resilient child, according the good doctors, is ensuring that they have high sense of self-esteem, are confident and have a wide social network. But how do you build the self-esteem of a three-year old? How do you teach a three year old confidence?

So we’ve been doing dramatherapy at home. Working on little skits on how to handle nasty people and how to walk away. We take turns at ‘playing’ nasty and learning how to walk away. And I keep telling him that his father and I love him very much.

How are you ‘bully proofing’ your kids? How have you dealt with the nasties in your life and your children’s life?

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