Last week I mentioned briefly that it is important for parents to nurture whatever gifts and talents their children may have. I was emphasizing this idea in terms of helping a child with a learning difficulty learn to see themselves in terms of their abilities, not just their difficulties.
Interestingly, there’s another benefit to taking time to nurture your children’s gifts—it can help protect them from bullying to some extent. It can’t really prevent bullying from happening, but it might help lessen the harmful effects that bullying can produce. Here’s the reasoning behind that:
In its simplest, most broken-down form, bullying is the attempt by one person to make another feel worthless. Children with a strong sense of self-worth and self-identity are less likely to believe a bully who tries to make them feel valueless.
Parents who help their children figure out what they love to do and who help their children pursue those interests in a healthy and balanced way can build up that protective sense of self-worth in their children. Here are a few more details on how doing this can help a child deal with bullying:
- Children who have something special in their lives that they are good at have self-confidence that is even evident in the way they walk. This is a protection because bullies are more likely to target kids with a noticeable lack of self-confidence as easy victims.
- Nurturing your children’s talents make them feel good about themselves. It gives them a sense of purpose (not to mention control) and a sense of accomplishment, which increases their sense of self-worth, which makes it much harder for a bully to successfully convince your children that they are worthless. It also gives you as a parent legitimate opportunities to genuinely praise your children for various qualities that become evident as they work to develop their abilities. Hearing positive words from someone they care about (you!) can be a powerful antidote/protection against hearing negative words from a bully.
- Having a passion for something that they are good at helps kids see life in terms of the big picture. It helps them realize there is more to life than the world at school (or wherever they find themselves in danger of being bullied) and that there is a world out there where they love doing something they are good at and where others will respect their hard work in that area.
- If your children’s interests bring them in contact with other people—including adults—so that they develop appropriate relationships with them, your children will have the benefit of knowing that there are other people in the big world (outside of school) that matter to them, people whose opinions they respect, people who think highly of them, and that it really doesn’t matter as much what one bully thinks about them.
- If your children’s interests tend toward helping other people—or if you can somehow get them involved in using their talents to help others from time to time—it also gives them a different perspective on the world. Children who have a habit of working to help others are less likely to allow themselves to believe a bully who tries to convince them that they are worthless.
Of course, cultivating your children’s gifts cannot prevent bullying. And if you find out that your child is a victim of bullying, of course you need to act on this information. Bullying is a serious problem and parents are not able to completely prevent it from ever happening to their children, but taking the time to nurture your children’s talents may make them less likely to believe a bully who tries to convince them that they are worthless.