One of the worst parenting nightmares is to see our kids suffer. Be it physical or emotional, there is nothing quite like the osmosis that happens within us when our child is hurting. Struggling socially is nothing new, but what is new is the accessibility of bullying platforms. There’s a whole new level of bullying in the social media world, and kids don’t realize the consequences that words they write on the internet or over social media don’t go away…EVER!

But as a parent, are you powerless to it all? You can’t shield your child from going to school or having social interaction, but what you can do is parent the best non-bully you can. By putting more non-bullies out into society, you’re doing two things. First, quite obviously, you are protecting other children. Second, you are teaching your own child to recognize behaviors in people they surround themselves with that can either set them up for success or for failure. Recognizing behaviors is a lesson that will stay with them well into adulthood.

1. Model the Behavior

First and foremost, your child is always listening and watching you, regardless of their age. When you model respectful, kind, well-mannered behavior, they will pick up what you put out. Whether you’re talking to someone in your household, a teacher, a police officer, or a server at a restaurant, or even talking on your cell phone, your child is listening and learning at every age based on your everyday interactions.

2. Old-Fashioned Manners Never Go Out of Style

Please, thank you, excuse me, eye contact, and basic conversation skills can be taught from a very early age. Being consistent with manners is the part where most parents go wrong. Don’t ever let a “please” or “thank you” slip away. Soon, these manners will become habit. This habit will stick forever! Your kids will thank you later. Literally.

3. Teach Them About Gratitude & A Greater Purpose

Gratitude is not something that is automatically instilled in a child. After all, why would it be? They are the center of the world in their mind, filled with birthday parties, presents, praise, home cooked meals, and an assistant every step of the way. That’s why gratitude has to be carefully taught with persistence. Volunteering can start at any age. Whether it’s giving away toys to those less fortunate, coloring pictures for nursing home residents, or even dropping off goodies at the local police/fire station, your children will begin to learn that the world has a greater purpose when they get involved in helping others.

4. Actions Have Consequences

Perhaps one of the biggest parenting issues I see dealing with kids of almost any age is the failure of a parent to follow through on consequences. Just like following through on any other promise you’d make to a child, you need to follow through on the consequences when they don’t follow the rules. Don’t threaten a time-out; give the time-out. Don’t threaten to take away the iPad; take away the iPad. You don’t need to take away things forever, but you do need to model consistency to show that our actions have a consequence every single time. Whether a single parent household, two-parent household, household with grandparents or other guardians, everyone needs to be on the same page with regards to discipline for the child.

5. Celebrate Individuality

Love, encouragement, and support (along with safety) are a parent’s real purpose. When children find something they love to do, encourage them. Don’t force anything they don’t love. Support their individuality and remember that we’re not all meant to fit in a box. By finding their likes, dislikes, and individual quirks that make up a personality, children develop a confidence of their own individuality and an appreciation for what makes us all different.