Bullying has been a major buzzword in our society over the last few years, particularly as cyberbullying has taken these actions off school grounds and made them too pervasive to ignore. Brought to the forefront of the news after a wave of teenage suicides, communities have finally taking notice of the serious damage that bullying can do.
What we have not talked enough about yet is how to put an end to bullying. When our children are young we tell them to be kind to others, to share, to use nice words and to include everyone. Then we wait. Since we have taught them these basic life lessons we assume that our child has soaked them up and is therefore more likely to be the prey than the villain.
If you are looking for a place to begin, consider taking a pledge against bullying. Bullying can have a lifelong impact. We have the power to prevent it by taking action. If you can stand up to bullying and its damaging effect on children, schools, and communities, join the growing movement of people committed to taking action. Start by taking this pledge:
After taking the pledge, take action:
• Talk to your kids about what they are seeing and hearing in school. Even if they are not being bullied, do they see bullying happen at school? What can they do about it? Are they following the pack or are they standing up for their friends in instances of bullying? Role play with them so they know how to handle different real-life, age-appropriate situations when they see bullying happen.
• Remind them that words can hurt. They may hear something in school and need to be reminded that it is not just an expression. Sadly, words like “retarded” and “gay” are still all too commonplace in our schools and beyond. For proof of that, take a look at GLSEN’s Twitter tracker, which keeps real-time statistics of anti-gay slurs being said daily on Twitter at http://thinkb4youspeak.com.
• Talk to your children about standing up for themselves. Help build their self-esteem. Studies show that bullies tend to seek out victims who appear to lack confidence. Role play different scenarios with them so that feel ready to respond to bullies.
• Set an example for your kids. Choose your words carefully around them. Don’t use words that you wouldn’t want your children to use. Don’t be a bully. Don’t judge others by their race, religion, weight, gender or by who they love. When you see instances of bullying, stand up and say something. Be kind and confident. Remember, your children are watching.
The effects of bullying can last a lifetime. First, take the pledge. Then, take action.