The month of October observes National Bullying Prevention Awareness. And while I’m not expert on bullying, I’m hopeful that we can help the next generation to be more empathetic, to stand up for those being bullied, and work with our kids to prevent bullying altogether.
Let’s start with the word prevention. The goal is not only to prevent our youth from being a victim of bullying, but also to stop them from being the bully. To prevent bullying is to be proactive; to teach and talk to children about this issue before a situation may arise.
It doesn’t matter if you are wealthy, book smart, an athlete, or any other type of “clique,” everyone can be bullied. In my high school years attending a small, rural school, many of my classmates still comment (20 years later) how we did not have any cliques. Yes, we had the different stereotypical groups, but we all meshed well. I am proud to be a part of that graduating class. So, I have a different view from the outside having not been bullied or witnessed bullying as a child. Despite this, I know we need to start modeling for our youth how to treat others the way we want to be treated from a very young age.
Build the Foundation at Home
With the evolution of technology, non-verbal ways of bullying can happen online or through the use of apps. This online bullying, or cyberbullying, can include emotional, racist, sexual, verbal, and physical bullying. And it doesn’t just affect the bully and the target of the bullying. There is a term for those who stand by and watch, videotape it, and make it viral: bullying bystander.
Our children are watching us and notice when we intervene. They listen to the way we talk about others who are different than us, people who have opposite viewpoints, or who may upset us or hurt our feelings. If we are always angry and do not deal with conflict, this will have a negative impact on our children and how they may view and act toward others. Above all, it is important to teach that while we don’t have to be friends with everyone, we still need to treat everyone with kindness and respect.
Lead by Example
Seek out others who appear physically different or act differently than your child. Explain to them that everyone is unique and that makes each of us who we are. According to DoSomething.org, 42% percent of students who reported being bullied at school said that the bullying was related to at least one of the following: physical appearance (30%), race (10%), gender (8%), disability (7%), ethnicity (7%), religion (5%), and sexual orientation (4%).
We need to teach our children that different isn’t negative. Difference should be embraced, celebrated, and encouraged. Use your words, your actions, and your attitude to show them how to treat and talk about others. They need to see the good in our differences.
Teach Kids Why Bullying Happens
Most of those who bully are trying to fill a void in their life. They are needing attention, not wanting attention. This could be due to a lack of parental attention or they could be bullied by a sibling at home. In addition, some family dynamics include strong characteristics of dominating or aggressive social skills, which may contribute to their behavior. Although it can be hard to oversee the actions of those who are hurting our children, it may be crucial to changing the situation.
Encourage children at a young age to bring up others with positivity. We tend to gravitate toward people who are positive and uplifting. And it can encourage others to mirror that behavior. Empowering our children to be confident and to speak out for others can also make an impact. More than half of bullying situations (57%) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied.
Unfortunately, even with preventative steps, we are only able to facilitate change in our own children, not others. Take the time to talk to your child about the different types of bullying, how to prevent it, and how to counteract it. Because even if they themselves are not being bullied, they can stand up for others.
For more information on anti-bullying activities, check out the campaign Stomp Out Bullying.
Click here for a list of movies on Netflix to bring awareness to bullying at all ages.
For a resource on educating kids about different races and cultures, see this post.