What Do You tell a Child Who’s Being Bullied? (And Tell Yourself Too!)

what do you tell a child who is being bullied

The other weekend our family enjoyed a Disney-a-Thon. We enjoyed The Little Mermaid, The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea and Tangled.

My 3 ½ year old son Ari asked lots of questions during these films. In particular, Ari was very curious and concerned about the evil characters.

Ari’s #1 big question:

Why is that person (or octopus or witch) being sooooo mean – wanting to hurt people?”

Yep. Ari was very intrigued about what makes someone act badly and be just plain ol’ mean spirited.

I gotta say… it was an interesting challenge trying to give a simple reply to this very complicated question – in such a clear-cut way that a 3 year old could understand.

While trying to find a way to best explain why bad people/octopuses/witches act badly, I became very aware of how all 3 movies shared the same philosophical themes.

You know how a taco, burrito, and enchilada all have the same ingredients, they’re just laid out in different ways? Well…The Little Mermaid, The Little Mermaid 2, and Tangled all share the same basic ingredients for story lines about good versus evil – just played out in different ways.

I became keenly aware of this because ALL my answers to Ari’s singular question were sorta the same for all 3 movies.

Here’s Ari’s question again:

“Why is that person (or octopus or witch) being sooooo mean – wanting to hurt others?”

Here are some of my answers I told Ari –  some of which were new things I learned too – about power versus love.

6 Lessons From Disney On Bullying  – Which Apply To Real Non-Technicolor Life

what do you tell a child who is being bullied

  • When you feel bad on the inside, you wind up wanting to do things to make others feel bad. In contrast, when you feel happy on the inside – you want to do things to make others feel happy. This is why it’s so important to make sure you feel good on the inside! Basically, however you feel on the inside, you wind up acting upon  – and wanting to make others feel. So, if you’re angry on the inside – you’ll act out in anger – and wind up making others feel angry. If you feel loving on the inside –you’ll want to do loving actions – and make others feel loved. Meaning? If there’s someone who’s mean to you – a bully – you should know it’s because they feel bad inside themselves – angry inside themselves.
  • All those characters who are mean in Disney movies, don’t have a lot of love in their lives – and so they choose seeking power, to try to make up for lack of love. Whenever you choose power over love you will never find true happiness. In every scenario where a mean Disney character is being mean, it’s always because they over-value POWER  & devalue LOVE.  Even with their “so called friends,” the mean characters are all mean to those they hang out with – to show off their POWER – rather than loving to them – hence these “so called friends” don’t love them back either. Plus, these mean characters don’t love themselves very much. They all talk about not loving who they are – as they are. As a result of not having love – they pursue power – to try to fill themselves up inside. But power is like junk food for the spirit. Love is like healthy food for the spirit. Power might feel tasty and good in the moment – but it will never be satisfying – never fill you up. Yep, no matter how much power you get – you will always feel empty. So you just keep wanting more power – and more power.  But because power is like junk food, the more you get, the sicker you feel inside – not happier. In contrast, the good characters seek love – not power. And the more love these good characters get – the more loving friends they enjoy – and loving acts they do – the happier they become – and the more self-fulfilled they feel. Love is the ultimate super power. And teamwork is another super power. When you join loving forces with those you love, you can accomplish lots – like all the good characters in Disney movies get to enjoy.
  • All the bad characters in Disney movies are always jealous of something that someone else has. They are overly focused on what other people have to offer – never thinking about what they themselves might have to offer. The evil characters never take time to find out what their “true inner power” might be ( their “true inner passion”).  Because these bad characters feel as if they don’t have a “true inner power” – they try to take power from others. They particularly like to take power from those who are “in their true power” – the good characters who have some special inner power (aka: a passion for singing, a passion for a special love connection, a passion for swimming, the ability to grow magical hair.) In contrast, the good characters in these films take the time to fully step into their own true power – so they have no desire to take power.  The good characters are focused on following their heart’s calling (singing, swimming, spending loving time with soul mates and soul friends, going towards the light in a distant village) And when these good characters take the time to pursue their own “true inner power” (their heart’s calling) they ironically wind up tapping into an increased sense of ” inner power” –thereby increasing self love and happiness. Meaning? When you follow your heart’s calling,  you wind up becoming your most powerful self.  You don’t need to take power from others if you can tap into your own inner power. 
  • Power’s okay to want to – as long as you are loving in your use of it – and use your power for good not evil. As Spiderman admits, “with great power comes great responsibility. “  All the good people in these movies feel happy and loving on the inside – so they want to use their power in a happy and loving way – to help others – which only increases the happiness they feel inside themselves. But when an unhappy character gets their hands on power – a bad character who doesn’t value love – they want to use their power to make others unhappy – which is the wrong use for power – and winds up not making anybody happy. 
  • It’s good to keep your eyes open to watch people’s actions – to find out if they’re good or bad. Don’t just listen to what others tell you – watch their actions. One big clue to help you figure out if someone’s bad: look at how they treat those around them.  If they’re mean to their “so called friends” – then that’s a warning they might be mean to you.  
  • It’s important to give people a chance to learn lessons and change their bad ways– if a mistake is made  – and someone acts badly. In fact, many of the good people/mermaids/mermen in these films made mistakes. They didn’t act as their highest best self. But they all apologized for their bad behavior – looked for the lesson to be learned – and expressed wanting to grow from their mistakes. They even followed up their apology with a positive action which showed they learned their lesson – and were choosing not to do this bad behavior anymore. Meaning? Even if somebody does something bad – it doesn’t necessarily mean they are forever bad. Also – even if YOU do something bad – it does not mean YOU are forever bad. Each of us can act badly at times – make mistakes –or act badly. What’s most important is to always want to learn and grow from any misbehavior.

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What’s something which comes to your mind and heart when you read about what to tell a child who is being bullied? Share below!

Written by Karen Salmansohn (Founder)

Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.
  • Naomi

    Love this xxxx

  • Liz

    OMG, Karen! Everything you said is SO true! You are saying the same thing, in a different manner, that I have been trying to learn for years. I have been a self-help junkie for my whole life, and just now at 45 getting IT, yay me! I owe the credit to my Higher Power/Universal Energy…whatever you want to call IT… Now that I am free-er of this junk and loving myself more, raising my vibration, I see these messages everywhere! I’m like a magnet attracting more good and love to me all the time, and also seeing the lessons I need to learn, and since I love myself now, I can see them without judgment…… Thank you so much for this article. I am definitely passing it along to all my friends…. Liz <3

  • Lori

    Karen, I would like your opinion on how you would handle a situation where you have given some one at least 10 times to not repeat the same bad behavior. It’s a new family member in our family,, I am having a difficult time with. I try not to stress out on it but it really stressful being around this person. This person I am speaking about is married to my daughter, I keep trying to over look things that have happened for her sake. She recognizes the problem, says it a character flaw, he is working on. They live out of town but when they come into visit it is very stressful.

  • Cynthia Dixon

    Personally, when I feel bad, I DON’T want to make others feel bad. How selfish & insensitive! Rest of the article was down-to-earth & concise.

    • Salome Brunette

      No need to leave bad comments Cynthia , It was meant in General 🙂

  • jamesxw

    Awesome article, thanks Karen. Awwww the badies love em ; ), incarnate get knocked around a bit i.e. get hurt and then act from their pain hurting others, in time though learn to love themselves, develop Compassion for self and others and then become Super Goodies ; ) x We’re all developing Super Goodie traits by playing goodies and badies in this beautiful game of life x love us all x

  • Casi Besich

    I am a clinical therapist and I absolutely LOVE your posts Karen!!! I look forward to them everyday and share them with many of my clients! Thank you for all you do and please continue doing it!!!

  • Dermot Sweeney

    Was it Abraham Lincoln who put it so easily – it’s not possible to feel good by being bad! I think the children can understand it. You talk about being aware of people. If people react negatively to little things, when something major comes along Watch Out!!!