Bullying has been around forever, but it wasn’t until social media began being the standard in “news” that it became an epidemic. Every day, bullying is an issue in every school in every city in the United States and abroad. When many kids experience bullying, it blurs the lines between another kid, just giving another a hard time or bullying. At the middle school level, kids are more aware of bullying from social media. So, when they experience another, giving them a hard time about something, they are relating it to bullying, even though it isn’t. This very viewpoint is a concern for all kids, being bullied or not.
What is Bullying?
So, what is a bully? How do we define a bully or bullying? Well, it could be someone seeking to harm or intimidate someone else. Typically, bullying involves a hostile intent, repetition, and distress. Bullying can be related to an imbalance of power in conjunction with all of these factors, as well. Bullying is going beyond the typical “picking on” a student at school every now and then. It’s targeted and direct. It’s end-goal is fear, embarrassment, or worse. Ultimately, bullying is selfish.
Why Is Bullying A Problem?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 49% of kids in grades 4 through 12 say they have been bullied at school within the last month. The last MONTH! That is half of our kids going through some sort of targeted physical, mental, and/or emotional attack. Additional studies by DHS also show that bullying can lead to social isolation, depression, aggressively acting out in other environments or worse; suicidal thoughts.
On top of that, bullying can cause long-term effects well into adulthood, including ongoing battles with depression.
How Can We Combat Bullying?
So the question becomes, how can we combat bullying? There is no right answer, but there are things that don’t work as well and things that work better than others, like with any situation. Schools having a “no tolerance” policy for bullying is not working. What is the result of someone violating this “no tolerance” policy? If a bully continues to cause problems for a child and that child gets up the nerve to take a swing, what happens? BOTH children are suspended. BOTH children have the same counseling discussions surrounded by “What could you have done better?”. It sounds like the same treatment for the bully and the bullied.
I have a much better idea, and it starts with parents. It starts with coaches. It begins with teachers, counselors, principles, and janitorial staff. It starts with every adult everywhere.
Create a culture of respect and kindness, compassion, and selflessness.
If we instilled in every moment with our children, to treat others as if they deserved better than we do ourselves, things would change. If we moved away from the words “unless” and “if”, and stopped putting exceptions on these qualities, life would change.
Life would change because respect, kindness, compassion, and selflessness is contagious. It spreads through acts of kindness. Through your words and actions showing that you value others above yourself, and put them above you in priority.
It’s time to stop with the conversations that enable our children to act like bullies. Too many times (and I am guilty of this also), we tell our kids just ignore bullies. This builds up frustration, then when our kids REACT without kindness to the bully, we give them a free pass.
We, as parents, need to stop being idle. We need to stop being reacting and simply take action.