Bullying. We all know it exists and it has become somewhat of a dirty word, yet most of us have no clue what to do about it. Some of us spend more time thinking about it than others, but all of us can benefit from a quick crash course in Bullying 101.
What exactly is bullying?
It is kids picking on other kids in an aggressive way, right? That's what I always assumed without ever really looking it up, but the National Bullying Prevention Center says it's not that easy to define. While there are some general rules defining bullying, the actual definition varies from school to school and state to state.
With that being said, there are some common defining themes seen throughout all bullying definitions. Bullying is repetitive behavior that hurts or harms another person who does not have the power to stop the behavior and defend themselves. That is still a pretty broad definition. The individual personalities and actions of kids make it even harder to throw a general blanket over, but the important thing is to make sure that your kids are emotionally and physically happy and healthy every day.
What do I tell my kids?
The most important thing for kids to know when it comes to bullying is what to say, what to do and who to report to according to the Human Growth Foundation (HGF).
Often times kids are too scared to say anything because they do not know what to say. They don't want to ostracize themselves, and they definitely don't want to be labeled a tattletale, so they just let the bullying happen.
Saying "Stop it!" is the first step, but teach your children to then identify what they want to stop, or why they don't like what is going on. For example, they should say "Please stop teasing me; I don't like it," or "Those things hurt my feelings, please don't say them," are things your children can say to a bully.
When I first read what the HGF wanted me to teach my kids to say to stop bullies, I was very skeptical. I thought that there was no way simply telling a bully to stop will make him stop. If he wants to keep bullying my kids, then saying those things would just add fuel to the fire, right?
Well, speaking up may not stop the bully, but it is an important first step. We need to teach our children that they need to stick up for themselves and others. All us skeptics are probably right, just saying stop won't usually stop the bully, but it will let the bully know your kids are not afraid. It will also give your kids the courage to take the next steps.
Tell your kids to speak up specifically and then walk away. Don't let them just stand there and take it and not fight back. Those things will just add to the bullying. The best thing for your kids to do is to maintain their composure and walk away. Walking away may also not stop the bully, which is why knowing who to tell is very important.
Help your kids know that they can and should tell an adult what happened. Help them pick out a favorite teacher or aid who they really trust at school. Let them know this is the person they should go to if anything bad ever happens at school.
Also, it is important to build your own relationship with your children so they will feel comfortable telling you what happens as well.
As a parent, what do I need to do?
The most important thing for you to do as a parent is to educate your children and to be educated yourself. Know your school's bullying prevention plans and your state laws. Ask someone to lay it out for you and then lay it out for your children, so they know they will be safe and protected if they report bullying.
Bullying has become something we cringe away from. We tell our kids to suck it up and teach them to fight back, or we teach them to hold it all inside until it manifests as depression and anxiety to go to school. How much better would it be if, instead, we taught them what to do?
You may not see bullying in your own family now, but if you prepare your kids today, you can be sure it will never become a problem.