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“Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.”
― Theodore Roosevelt
Some may say that the “School of Hard Knocks” is just a natural part of growing up, and an experience that we all must have – like a rite of passage to adulthood. But, that’s not true. Being the victim of deliberate and cruel discrimination from peers is not something that should be tolerated or excused as just a common part of the typical school experience. Bullying, in the modern world, has resulted in scarring and even fatal consequences. Although students attend school to earn an education, they also subsequently interact with many people who may challenge their views, alter their perception, and persuade them to act undesirably to be socially accepted. Fighting this issue seems like an uphill battle, and in world where technology has made communication almost constant and uncontrollable, how can bullying be stopped? As a parent, what can YOU do to be an advocate for your child, and address the issue of bullying? Here are just a few tips to get you started on the path of prevention:
1. Educate yourself about bullying. What is it? How does it affect children both inside the classroom and at home? Bullying can take on many forms – (verbal, physical, and mental) – and in various settings: face-to-face and via social media. Bullying can be defined as any repeated activity of intimidating or aggressive behavior that is intended to hurt another person, physically or mentally.
2. Encourage your child to accept others for WHO they are – and even embrace their differences. If we teach our children to tolerate those who are different from us, we can eliminate the resentment or fear that they may have about those differences. This ultimately will defuse the situation and encourage them to recognize that everyone has something to offer, even if it is not apparent on the surface.
3. Explain to your child that being a bully not only hurts the other person, but also reflects negatively on their own character. Explain to your child that putting others down in order to deflect a personal fear, or gain momentary recognition from peers – only degrades their own character. Discuss with your child that things they say and do are how others form an opinion of who they are. Do they really want to become someone who doesn’t value others or themselves?
4. Proactively seek out resources and professionals who can help. Whether your child is the victim or the bully, there are people who can intervene and help your child not to be consumed by this behavior. Often, children respond well to adults who are not their direct parent –and are more receptive when they realize that someone cares about them who isn’t obligated to.
5. Stay connected and communicate openly with your child. Pay attention to warning signs like disinterest in school, mood swings, chronic headaches, anger, etc. If something seems amiss – address it. By simply talking with your child, you may be able to spare them the anguish of feeling isolated and hopeless in a situation that they are not able to control.
No child should have to endure bullying – and no child should be forced to face it alone. Additionally, no child should feel that they have to resort to being cruel to their peers as a way of coping with their own fears and anger. As the adult advocate in your child’s life – take an active role in bullying prevention. Tell your child what bullying does. Talk to them about their school experiences. Then listen. You just might be surprised at what you hear…