Saturday, November 26, 2016

Bullying is Everyone's Business

Last week, we discussed Gaslighting and how it is an entrenched part of school bullying. But, what can we realistically do about it? How do we stop it? The truth of the matter is bullying will be around as long as two human beings exist on the Earth. It will never go away entirely.

Let’s look at some things that we can do, individually and as groups, to stem the growth of bullying:

Live Authentically:  Be the person you want children to grow up to be. We have to live as examples of how people should treat each other. Behave the same way in private as you do in public. No one is perfect, but when effort is applied it can make a world of difference.

Actively Listen:  When a child/tween/teen is telling you they are being bullied, whether you are a parent or a trusted adult, actively listen to what they are saying. Many times, we listen only to respond. We need to turn off our phones, computers, or other distractions and take part in the conversation. We need to allow children the space to express their fears and their feelings.

Make Bullying Your Business:  We’ve all heard that domestic violence is everyone’s business. On the same token, so is bullying. Regardless of whether the victim is your child or just some random kid on the street, make it your business. If you see something, say something. When I say make it your business that does not include giving the bully a beat down. It means be the adult on the scene. When you take action, it allows the victim to internalize that they are not alone and people do care. Even if you only suspect a kid is being bullied, take the initiative to ask them; and then actively listen to what is being said. You could save a life, just by asking.

Put Bite in Your Policy:  How many times have we heard the policy statement, “Zero Tolerance”, only to find that it doesn’t really mean anything? How many kids have experienced bullying, and brought it to the attention of the school only to have the administration poo-poo it away, or claim their hands are tied and they can’t do anything? Or, worse yet, blame the victim? If we’re going to claim Zero Tolerance then it has to mean something. There has to be consequences for bullying that are applied continually and consistently across the board. No exceptions.

We Are Not Their Friends:  When we GenXers became parents, we made a huge mistake. You might think I’m speaking to the “helicopter parent” issue, but no. Our mistake was trying to be our kids’ friends instead of being their parents. We tossed our authority as parents out the window. If you are doing this now, stop it. Your kids have friends. They need you to be Mom or Dad, the people who are in charge. If everyone is behaving like juveniles, we have created nothing more than an environment akin to Lord of the Flies. It’s hard being a parent. Your kids are not always going to like you, but they will always love you.

There are those who kowtow to teaching kids how to be resilient, which although it is important, it is just as important to teach kids not be bullies in the first place. Yes, it is human nature to bully, but at the same time, there’s a fine line between bullying and criminal behavior.

Bullying has one objective: Abusing another to gain a sense of power and control. Today, we have an epidemic of violence and suicide, the direct result of bullying.

Unfortunately, we can’t stop it entirely, but together we can make a difference. We just have to want to.

If you are being bullied in school or online, please, please seek out a trusted adult in your life. Maybe a favorite teacher, or a coach, or a friend’s parent, or your own parents and tell them. Tell someone. Talk to someone. You are not alone in the world, and people do care. You matter in the world and you are loved.