I hope that you found part two in our series, “Home Grown Bullies” informative and helpful to you and your family.  Did you recognize any habits in your family that are similar to the Jellyfish Family?

If you’ve been busy and haven’t been able to learn about the Jellyfish Family yet, click here and you will be directed to that blog post so you can catch up!

Today, is the 3rd and final piece in our series where we’re learning about the Backbone Family.  I think that you’ll like this one because, hopefully, you will see your family structure most often when reading about this one. 

Just like the Brick Wall Family and the Jellyfish Family, Backbone Families live in all kinds of neighborhoods, schools and religious groups.  They come from all social and economic strata.  They are made up of all races and ethnic groups. 

Unlike the Brick Wall or Jellyfish families, the Backbone Family is not hierarchical, bureaucratic or violent and doesn’t demand respect.  Children are not subjected to power expressed as control and have no need to manipulate others, feel contempt for anyone or subordinate themselves to others.

In the Backbone Family, parents don’t demand respect…they teach and demonstrate it.  Children will learn to respectfully question and challenge authority that is not in line with the moral code they have been empowered to develop.  They learn how to say no because they learn to listen and be listened to.  They are treated with empathy and compassion and are able to learn to empathize with others.

Backbone parents give their children these critical life messages every day to show their support:

     I believe in you.

     I trust you.

     I know you can handle this situation.

     You are listened to.

     You are cared for.

     You are very important to me.

Through love, acceptance and encouragement, children are recognized, valued and appreciated.  This enables them to fend of the verbal attacks of a bully.  They can respond assertively and know when to ask for help if needed.  They know that they will be listened to and believed instead of shamed and dismissed.

Kids who receive these life messages develop a secure and healthy attachment to their parents.  A positive child-parent relationship empowers children to develop their own sense of optimism, perseverance and generosity.  These are skills that help them to effectively deal with setbacks, mistakes and negative interactions with peers.

When a Backbone Family holds a family meeting, the children experience democracy in action. Everyone’s schedules, activities and conflicts are accounted for and children can express their ideas and feelings in an environment of respect and acceptance.  They learn to take responsibility, honor differences and resolve conflicts peacefully.

Backbone parents create a home environment that is conducive to creative, constructive and responsible activity.  Prosocial behaviors are modeled and children are encouraged to explore, take healthy risks and resolve conflicts assertively and peacefully.  Mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities.

Discipline is delivered with authority.  When children misbehave, they are shown what they did wrong and are taught to take ownership of the error and offered ways to resolve the problem.  Their dignity is left intact.  The rules are simple and clearly stated.  Backbone parents take into consideration their perception of their child’s needs and create opportunities for the children to make their own decisions and develop their own boundaries. 

Consequences for irresponsible behavior are simple, valuable and purposeful.  There is no need for threats, bribes or punishment.  Children are able to get second chances when they take responsibility for their wrongdoings.

Backbone children receive lots of smiles, hugs and humor without any conditions attached.  They can watch their parents enjoying life and bonding with each other.  They learn to accept their own feelings and to act responsibly on those feelings.  Backbone parents model appropriate ways to express a full range of emotions and children learn to respond to peers with empathy.

Backbone parents help their children to learn new skills and show them how to work and play with others.  Children learn to be competent, cooperative and decisive.  Competition is recognized as a part of real life and children learn to celebrate their own successes as well acknowledge the success of others.

Love is unconditional in the Backbone Family.  Children learn that they are valuable just because they are.  They feel loved and wanted just as they are.  This helps them to be more willing to celebrate differences in other people.

Children are taught how to think, not what to think.  They are encouraged to listen to their own intuition, be spontaneous and creative.  They are encouraged to figure out ways to solve their own problems.  They are taught to stand up and speak out when they see injustice. They learn to be upstanders instead of bystanders. Children are shielded from the potential ill behaviors of a bully or becoming a bully by daily reinforcement of messages that foster a strong self-image.

The Backbone Family is willing to ask for help when needed.  Problems are not hidden away or ignored.  They know that seeking advice from elders, trained professionals or experts can only make a situation better,

Being a Backbone parent is never easy.  There are no quick fixes, no one size fits all answers. Becoming a Backbone Family takes time and effort.  If you identified yourself in the Brick Wall or the Jellyfish Family or a combination of both, you can make always make adjustments.  But you need to understand that the positive changes you need to make may not come overnight. 

You may need support from others.  You may find help in a mentor, a family therapist, other parents or your child’s school.  They can help you change the attitudes, behaviors and beliefs that may be negatively affecting your family.

You will see a change in the dynamics of the relationship between your family members and the way your children relate to their siblings, friends and teachers.  When you make these changes, you will influence and empower your children to break the cycle of violence.

Growing up in a Brick Wall or Jellyfish Family will not eliminate the possibility that your child will become a decent and caring person but the hostile, punitive and threatening environment of these two families will significantly reduce the chances of that happening.

Creating a warm, caring and nurturing environment is not a guarantee that your child will become a decent, caring and responsible person but in this kind of environment, the possibility becomes much more likely.

We hope that you are enjoying our series and have found the information useful. If you are ready to learn more about what you can do to create a more positive, balanced home for your family, check out our latest e-book called “Bullyproof” by subscribing to our email list.  It’s full of ideas on how you can take small steps to empower your child to stand up to bullies, to keep the lines of communication open and to help your child to become more empathetic and compassionate.

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