National Bullying Prevention Month | What You Can Do As a Parent
With October being National Bullying Prevention Month, it is important that we raise awareness about a topic plaguing our children.
This is so important especially for school-aged children and teens increasing yearly with new mediums such as the internet to further reach children. I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t been teased or been bullied in some way. The truth is, that bullying is an everyday thing for some kids, and it is affecting every aspect of their lives. How do we fix this epidemic that has gone after our kids? I think it starts with several things. The first is it is important for our children to understand the difference between bullying and kids just being jerks. Bullying by definition is using superior strength or influence to intimidate, typically to force someone to do what one wants sometimes with force. I think there is a good chance what we are seeing with our kids doesn’t exactly fit the true definition of bullying, but rather just kids being unkind and rude. Making fun of someone for behaving differently or dressing different doesn’t necessarily fit the text book definition but is still extremely hurtful. I think we have lumped the “mean kid” behavior in to the bullying category. The kids that are just hateful and unkind are not necessarily bullies. Being left out of a playground game is not bullying but just mean behavior from peers.
We must start by defining bullying to our children and showing them how to get help.
The definition is important because one is so much more serious than the other. Bullying has a threat of violence or use of power where teasing or other unkind acts are just that, unkind and hurtful. Once they know the true definition it will help them to know when to reach out. They need to know that adults will take them seriously and act accordingly. Be there to comfort, support and give advice to your child. They need to understand it isn’t shameful or embarrassing but instead a serious issue that effects many.
So many things effect our children’s self-esteem now more than ever.
Bullying is largely based on self-esteem on both sides.
The bully being insecure in something in their lives that has them reaching for control in some aspect. The bullied is insecure because maybe they are different in some way than their peers. The difference maybe be anything. They are hearing impaired, have ADHD, or even that they come from a low income family and can’t afford to dress as nice as the other kids. Either way, they feel like they are not good enough in some aspect of their lives.
It has to start at home with parents who are constantly affirming their children.
Affirming they are beautiful, smart or creative. You fill in the blank. It is important that our children hear these things from the people who love them the most. They need to feel that they are valued. They need to feel how special they are. This obviously isn’t going to make them immune to bullying but it does give them a firm foundation to stand up for themselves. It give them a positive inner voice to combat the negative. It makes it easier to not let what others think define them. Make sure they are able to find a group of friends to relate to. They need to know that they fit somewhere. Maybe it’s the football team, or maybe it’s the STEM club. They need to have a group of similar peers to make them feel secure. It’s important for them to be among their people. This builds confidence and friendships that make them less attractive to bullies.
Teach your children to be inclusive not just kind.
Kind is great, but it doesn’t make a child feel safe. Teach your kids that being included makes a huge difference. Invite someone to sit with you or play with you when they are alone. Teach your kids to accept everyone as they are. They may be different than you in some way, but there are tons of ways you are similar. Help your kids to look for those similarities and not concentrate so much on the differences. When we start this at a young age we set our children up to be accepting of others no matter the circumstance.
We often think so much about what we would do if our child was being bullied, but what we don’t often think about is the bully.
It would be a hard pill for me to swallow if I found out that my child was bullying another child. We try so hard to be good parents. We tend to go on the defensive when our child is accused of wrong-doing, but in this case we really have to look back at ourselves as parents and why our children believe this behavior is acceptable. What a blow to your parenting, right? Wrong. There is so many more stressors now than when I was a child. So many more ways for our children to be influenced. It may be as simple as attention seeking, or as deep as sexual abuse, but many times they do it to ‘fit in”. They have a high probability of being bullied themselves. We must stop this cycle show these children support. They need us just as much as the bullied. We have to keep the lines of communication open so our children feel like they can come to us with anything and everything. They need to know we are there to guide them and teach them, not shame them for certain behavior.