The importance of educating children about manipulation and covert bullying

“The flags of toxic relationships cannot always be seen, they are felt!”

I want to highlight the importance of educating children on toxic relationships. Manipulation or covert bullying is abusive and painful. These types of relationships last because the victim is silenced or asked to keep secrets.

Loyalty is misplaced and comes at a high price  

Too scared to speak out, the relationship is strengthened by the victim’s fear of abandonment or rejection.  It’s a confusing, unpredictable and lonely relationship which gives nothing, but takes so much away. 

Over time, it erodes the victim’s self esteem and weakens their intuition.  

Secrets and lies are at the root of toxic relationships

In today’s video you’ll hear me talk about why it’s so important that we don’t encourage children to keep secrets and we praise them for speaking up and telling the truth – even when other people don’t want to hear it or it triggers something uncomfortable in us. 


Here are some Smiley highlights …


1:42 With a toxic relationship because you can’t always see what is wrong; it more than likely feels ‘off’, you can be in it and not even realise that you are…until it’s too late. The latest episode of the kids podcast #20 – The One with the Sicky Icky Soup highlights to children the red flags to look out for. 


2:50 Some of the signs that you’re in a toxic relationship:

  • Feeling confused
  • Ruminating or thinking about it constantly
  • Trying to understand the other person’s behaviour
  • Feeling anxious with the unpredictability of it all
  • Doubting yourself and your reality

3:12 What I mean by the elephant in the room – not speaking the truth because it makes other people feel uncomfortable and we don’t want to hurt their feelings. When we teach children to protect other people from their feelings, we’re also not allowing the other person to be accountable for their behaviour.

 3:30 Listen to my story about how a recent group coaching session helped me with my lack of self belief which comes from being seen. Being seen for me created fear, confusion, terror, loneliness, shame, powerlessness, hopelessness and strong feelings of somehow being misunderstood and unlovable. 

4:43 Why punishment doesn’t work and how it weakens your relationship with your child. What can you do instead? This post goes into more detail about alternatives to punishment.

5:25 Our role modelling of healthy relationships can sometimes be wonky. We have one set of rules for adults and another set of rules for kids which means they have to feel pain to learn their lesson. This is not true and actually does more damage in the long run. What is your relationship like with your child? Is it a blueprint for a healthy relationship?

6:26 If being visible as a child had negative consequences (ie. you got hurt, punished or screamed at), low self esteem and confidence is a given. ‘I will stay small to keep myself safe’.

7:28 How I was punished for telling the truth. I was picking up on things growing up which nobody else in my family wanted to look at or address. Not talking about it means I protect the adults around me from taking responsibility for their actions. It’s not my job to protect people from their feelings. It’s their job to be accountable as adults for their behaviour.

9:00 What I tell children who come to coaching because they are being covertly bullied.

10:52 How the misplaced loyalty serves as protection from feeling the inevitable pain of rejected / abandoned, when actually there isn’t a healthy relationship to lose in the first place.

11:45 Listen to me tell the rather woo woo story of how releasing all my icky feelings around severe punishment as a child saw me wind up in the forest crying with a deer for company.


What does a deer symbolise?





Do you have a Wildheart? (strong willed sensitive child)

14:45 What sensitive children, boys in particular need to know

15:37 How the most sensitive and strongest member of the family is the one who acts out and usually ends up in coaching (is your child a Wildheart – strong willed sensitive child?)

16:10 It’s taken me 45 years to recover from the negative effects of severe punishment, keeping secrets and telling lies. Don’t let that be you as well. Tell the truth to yourself.

17:05 If you have a Wildheart – strong willed sensitive child, do not try and break their spirit. It will do so much damage to them. Instead of getting into a power struggle, learn how to set healthy boundaries with empathy.

17:48 What to look out for in your family and how you can safeguard your child against these toxic relationships. This training ‘How to Safeguard Your Child against Frenemies, Meanies and Tricky People’ is a bonus in Truly Madly Smiley.

5 reasons children struggle with tricky relationships


  1.  Low self esteem / don’t value themselves
  2. Have an insecure attachment style
  3. Are highly sensitive
  4. Have poor boundaries (they easily lose themselves in other people by putting others first)
  5. Aren’t being role modelled healthy relationships

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

― Anne Lamott

20:12 Why I think it’s important to tell the truth. Telling the truth is not about blame or shame, but it’s simply about being honest. Are you protecting yourself or the other person from facing an uncomfortable truth? Kind friends tell the truth.

20:32 How I decide which parts of my story to tell (rules around self disclosure). If you listen and think: ‘Gosh I couldn’t say those things in public about my childhood,’ where is your misplaced loyalty and who are / what are you protecting?

20: 52 Don’t keep secrets. Secrets break trust and there is no relationship without trust.

Want to help your child resolve their unique friendship struggle?

Be Your Own Best Friend’ is my fun and creative online course that will grow your child’s confidence and self esteem from the inside out. From that, it is then, they can find the friendships they deserve. 

“Good self esteem helps you know that every part of you is worth taking care of and protecting.”

Click on the picture below to find out more!


Please share the love with those that need it most
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial