When I think back to my “glory days” sitting in a classroom, I don’t recall bullying being such an issue. I am sure it went on and children were affected by it every day, but I think it was more of a private matter. No one told on a bully or admitted they were being bullied and teachers rarely talked about or received any training on extinguishing potential bullying situations. Occasionally, you would hear a teacher reprimand a student for “picking on” another student, but how much impact did that have on the aggressor and their behavior coming to a halt?
It seems like school bullying has been a topic of interest on a lot of parent’s and educator’s minds lately. More and more, the news media is educating the public on the long term effects of bullying and occasionally they publicize a bullying issue gone totally wrong. How did we end up living in a society that can be so cruel? What does a bully get out of hurting others and belittling their peers? Does it increase their self-esteem because they originally felt so inferior to that particular individual? From experience, I have concluded in every recognized bullying situation, the resulting behavior is usually easily defined. The root cause of most bullying situations is some form of jealousy. Maybe a student gets better grades or maybe a student looks a particular way? Maybe a student has what someone else wants? Maybe a student is just shy and it takes time for that child to warm up and participate in certain activities?
I have also learned in my experience, that some kids just think they are better than others. They were raised to believe that everyone is not equal and should not be treated with the same respect. Sadly, kids that fall into that category are kids whose parents indirectly raise them with a sense of entitlement. When the issue is addressed, these are the kids who come from parents who are quick to say “how dare you?” instead of supporting educators to modify the behavior. Student who fall into this category are usually sneaky, intentional and downright mean, but appear to be innocent and sweet. Both categories of bullies: ones stemming from jealously and ones stemming from entitlement need to learn right from wrong. Unfortunately, without the support of parents, school faculty members have to address these issues along with the student’s education. The schools are also blamed when these students continue the unmodified behavior, making the schools a target for ridicule.
As parents, we need to promote an individual’s differences and unique qualities. Parents need to raise their children respect differences in others and model how not to be envious of others, but promote differences as something that sets us apart from all being uniform humans. Not everyone has the ability to automatically be at the top of the class, but everyone has the ability to learn. All students do not fit the “unrealistic” mold Barbie and Ken originated, but each of us was created in our own mold. Our personalities develop from life experiences, so why don’t we take the time to give each other positive encounters and leave all the negatives to the inevitable. As parents, teach and model for your child how to respect each other, complement each other and at times stick up for yourself and others. No one should be treated like their differences are a curse, but should be appreciated for their individually.
As educators, we are outlining procedures to combat bullying. We can’t stop it completely, but we can recognize it and make our bullies understand the power of their negative words and actions. We can curtail the behaviors by educating our youth on why it is inappropriate to bully and there are consequences for that type of behavior. We can stop the practice of “stop picking on him/her” and move to “bully free zone.” It should be the bullies’ life that is altered by the behavior and not that of an individual who is considerate for others and is just enjoying the day. Children that grow up as bullies often live their adult life as bullies. Think about your actions and words to others before you model your behavior as appropriate to your children, students and onlookers. Promote a “bully free community”, “support the schools”, “teach your child right from wrong” and “promote equality!”
Educational Tip: Make sure to ask your child about their school day. It is important to keep lines of communication open not only to academics, but to social activities that happen during the day. Parents are the number one resource in identifying possible bullying activities. Recommended Reading- The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale.