Bullying is a very real, soul-destroying activity that goes on in schools at an alarming rate. Children can be exceptionally nasty and bully other children for many reasons. Some bully because they feel insecure and there is no homebase support. Picking on someone who seems emotionally or physically weaker provides a feeling of being more important, popular, or in control. In other cases, children bully because they simply don’t have a cooking clue that it is in no ways or means acceptable to pick on others because of size, looks, race, or religion.
Bullying unfortunately isn’t a short-term trauma that children can just get over. The after-effects into adulthood can be devastating – intimacy issues, trust issues and even severe depression are very real consequences of bullying. Some children don’t even make that journey to adulthood and are fatal victims of bullying by committing suicide.
What can we as parents and teachers do to prevent bullying and teach children just to be kind?
- Take bullying seriously. Make sure your children and learners understand that you will not tolerate bullying at home, in the classroom or anywhere else. Establish rules about bullying and stick to your guns. If you punish a child by taking away privileges, be sure it’s meaningful. For example, if your child bullies other kids via email, text messages, or a social networking site, dock phone or computer privileges for a period of time. If your child acts aggressively at home, with siblings or others, put a stop to it. Teach more appropriate (and nonviolent) ways to react, like walking away.
- Others need to be treated with respect and kindness. Children need to be taught that it is wrong to make fun of others, no matter what their race, religions, size or gender. Instill a sense of empathy for those who are different, especially when it comes to special needs learners in schools. Consider getting involved together in a community group where children can interact with others who are different.
- Have insight into children’s social lives. Look for insight into the factors that may be influencing children’s behaviour in the school environment (or wherever the bullying is occurring). Talk to children’s friends and peers. We all know what kind of pressures children face at school. Talk to them about relationships and that every individual is unique. Get them involved in activities outside of school so that they meet and develop friendships with different groups of children.
- Encourage good behavior. Positive reinforcement can be more powerful than negative discipline – depending on the situation. Catch children in moment where they are being good — and when they handle situations in ways that are constructive or positive, take notice and praise them for it.
- Be the example. Think carefully about how you talk around children and how you handle conflict and problems. They are like absolute sponges. If you behave aggressively, the chances are almost 100% certain that they will follow in you footsteps. Life is tough, but try and point out positives in others, rather than negatives. Cope with those feelings and pop those happy pills if you need to!
Charity begins at home – be the change you want to see and help stop bullying!