Over-protective, inept or unskilled mothers sabotage their daughters.

Almost all the women who’ve interviewed me on radio and TV or who’ve called in with comments have said that their mothers told them to rise above mean girls, to be nicer and kinder to bullies, to be nice because the mean girls were being bullied at home, to feel sorry for the bullies because they had low self-esteem or to simply forgive mean girls as a spiritual thing to do.

That’s bad advice; those methods don’t stop real-world bullies and mean girls.  Those mothers trained their daughters to be easy targets and victims.  Those grown daughters still bear the wounds and scars of being hurt and victimized while not being allowed or knowing how to defend themselves.

In addition, some over-protective mothers said that they’re home-schooling their daughters because they were bullied at school.  There are many good reasons to home-school children, but I think that’s not one of them.

The number one cause of daughters being bullied repeatedly and then growing up to be bullied adults in relationships and at work is well-meaning mothers who are philosophically opposed to fighting back verbally or physically or who are inept or unskilled at stopping bullies.  They make bullying a multi-generational problem by not teaching their daughters effective skills and techniques to stop bullies.

Of course we don’t throw our children into deep water and risk their drowning.  First, we teach them how to swim.  Everything I say also relates to fathers and sons.

So what can mothers do?

  • If you’re fearful and protect your daughters in a cocoon, you’ll create problems for them when they grow up.  Don’t make being a victim into a multi-generational problem.  The fear they sense will lead them to think they’re weak, fragile and incompetent.  They’ll develop anxiety and low self-confidence and self-esteem.  They’ll be naïve and unskillful and, therefore, easy prey for abusers and predators in their adult love life, with friendships and at work.
  • Accept that you must educate and train your daughters to stop bullies skillfully.  They won’t be able to function successfully in the real-adult world if you let them think that the whole universe is a safe place; that if they’re nice and loving all people will be nice to them in return; that treating people according to the Golden Rule will get kindness and consideration back; that they’ll be more spiritual if they forgive and rise above harassment and abusive behavior.
  • Teach your daughters that the real-world has predators and also teach them how to recognize bullies.  Overt bullies are easy to recognize.  Also, teach them the early warning signs of stealthy, covert bullies and mean girls.
  • Teach your daughters how to stop school bullies individually – verbally and physically.  Predators will misinterpret their kindness and offers of friendship as weakness and an invitation to abuse them more.  Teach your daughters techniques of increasing firmness to get bullies to stop or to get away from them.  Teach them how to rally their friends to help them.
  • Teach your daughters how to get adult help from you, school officials and police.  Convince them that you can help if they’re targeted by cyber-bullies or if they witness cyber-bullying.
  • Be a model.  Become skillful in stopping the bullies in your life – at home, at work, as a customer and in the school system.  Learn how to rally and support good principals and teachers, and how to make reluctant administrators protect your daughter.

If you’re over-protective or if you try to ignore, minimize or appease bullies, you’ll teach your daughter to do the same.  And she’ll grow up to feel just as helpless as you do.

Do better for your daughter.  Remember all the women who interviewed me and the mixed feelings they now have about their mothers.

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Ben Leichtling, Ph.D. is author of the books and CDs “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” and “Eliminate the High cost of Low Attitudes.” He is available for coaching, consulting and speaking.  To find practical, real-world tactics to stop bullies and bullying at home, school, work and in relationships, see his web site (http://www.BulliesBeGone.com) and blog (http://www.BulliesBeGoneBlog.com).

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