Bullying is on the rise in our culture, not only at school, but in the workplace, in intimate relationships, and in society at large. Within the schools, it is not only children bullying other children, but parents bullying teachers, teachers bullying parents, teachers bullying other teachers, coaches bully players, and parents bullying other parents. We have all been bullied and we have all been bullies. Take some time to reflect on the role bullying has played in your life, and dare to have a courageous conversation with your child.
1. Nobody likes being bullied. I don’t like being bullied, you don’t like being bullied, and neither does your child. Sometimes the most powerful points are the obvious ones.
2. What does it feel like to be bullied? Bullying creates fear and it’s a horrible thing to live in fear.
3. The starting point. Bullying usually starts with name calling. When we call someone a derogatory name that puts him/her down, we are disrespecting that person. Respect is the starting point of all healthy relationships, and disrespect is the starting point of all bullying.
4. Share your story. Tell your child about a time in your life when you were bullied, how you delt with it, how it made you feel, and what you would do differently given the chance.
5. Don’t be a bully. This is the first lesson. We think we don’t need to teach our children this, but we do. We all have the potential to be bullies. It is something everyone needs to learn to control.
6. Don’t participate. Don’t be part of someone else’s bullying. Just because you are not the one doing the bullying, doesn’t mean you are not responsible.
7. Don’t befriend bullies. Sooner or later we all rise or fall to the level of our friends. Choose your friends wisely.
8. If you see something, say something! People who are bullied have a hard time speaking up for themselves. If you see someone else being bullied, speak up for them. Tell an adult what you saw. If it continues to happen, say something again. Say something as many times to as many people as it takes to get it to stop.
9. Be empathetic. Being bullied is a traumatic experience and people who have been bullied need someone to sit with at lunch, play with at recess, and just talk to when they feel down. Be that empathetic friend.
10. Bullying is small. Anyone or anything that doesn’t help you become the-best-version-of-yourself is too small for you. Bullying and bullies certainly fall into that category.
This is not a one and done conversation. Check in with your child from time to time. The best teachers use questions skillfully. Asking questions is a valuable skill to learn as a parent also. Is anyone being bullied at school? This broader question is a better place to start than: are you being bullied at school? This direct and personal question will cause many children to freeze up.
Talking to your child about bullying can be difficult, but this is not a lesson they might need in life. It is a lesson they will definitely need to draw upon time and time again.
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