Is your child ‘self-bullying’? What parents should know about the harmful practice

Click to play video: 'Is your child a self-bully?'
Is your child a self-bully?
Author Miriam Laundry talks about her new book ‘The Big, Bad Bully,’ which deals with the issue of self-bullying – Feb 24, 2020

Building your child’s self-esteem from an early age is important for preventing “self-bullying.” 

Miriam Laundry, a St. Catharines-based author, says she first noticed her own daughter criticizing herself when she was in the fifth or sixth grade.

“She was standing in front of a full-length mirror saying things like, ‘Why am I so short? Why do I have so many pimples?’” Laundry told hosts on Global News’ The Morning Show. “And nothing that I was saying was making her stop… She hadn’t thought of it as if she was bullying herself.”

The negative thoughts that we have about ourselves can truly impact how we feel about ourselves, said Laundry, a mom of four. She co-authored the book The Big, Bad Bully to illustrate the consequences of children treating themselves badly. 

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“I’m always looking for ways to teach [self-love] to my kids, because if I would have learned that when I was younger, where would I be now? How much happier would I be?” she said. 

By the age of five, children have already developed a sense of self-esteem, according to 2016 research from the University of Washington. The report found that how children view themselves plays a critical role in how they form their own identities and will impact how well they do in school and life later on. 

How to build your child’s self-esteem

There are ways to help your child engage with healthier self-talk to help them focus on their achievements and worth instead of reverting to a negative understanding of who they are, explained Laundry.

Click to play video: 'Tips to help parents handle a bully in their child’s life'
Tips to help parents handle a bully in their child’s life

Before the end of the day, a good bedtime routine would be telling your child why you are proud of them that day, she said. 

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“What that’s doing is changing your negative thoughts. [Your child] will be looking for the good things… You start having those positive thoughts,” she said. “It’s a new habit that you’re forming… Self-esteem comes from feeling lovable and capable.”

Another way to subtly help your child is by placing photos of them in their room of moments where they achieved something important, from sports to music or school accomplishments, she said.

“So they’re going to see this photograph and know they are capable, they can do things,” she said.

Also include a photograph of the child with their family to remind them that they’re loved, she added.

Refrain from criticizing yourself in front of your child, especially about your appearance or weight, Dr. Neville Golden, a pediatrics professor at Stanford University, said in a previous Global News report.

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“Mothers who talk about their own bodies and weights can inadvertently encourage their kids to have body dissatisfaction, which we see in half of teens and a quarter of boys,” he said. 

It’s likely a child has already made up their minds about who they are by the time they’re a pre-teen, said Laundry.

“We really need to help build them up, and affirm to them how great they are,” she said. “They just need to hear that from us.” 

For more information on self-bullying watch Miriam Laundry in the video above. 

⁠— With files from Carmen Chai

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