October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and we are talking all month about ways that students can help overcome and fight the bullying epidemic. Bullying has spread to not just school and kids—adults are battling it as well. As parents, it is imperative that we set good examples for our children in our speech and actions, and empower them with the confidence they need to stand strong on their own. There is a need to strengthen our kids to be brave in defending themselves and their friends, all while standing out from the crowd in their compassion and uniqueness.
Stand Up: For Others
It is easy at school to get caught up in the politics of friendships and popularity. Kids looking for acceptance often resort to befriending bullies so as not to feel isolated and to find favor in the eyes of their peers. Children often bond over making fun of others. However, these bullies cannot be trusted. Just as they make fun of others, they will make fun of you.
The better option is clearly to stand up for the ones being bullied. The bonds that will be formed in doing so will result in much stronger and more dependable friendships. Although, it may be scary to take a stand against bullying behavior, your child must realize the inherent benefit to them of not being simply a bystander to wrong actions, but being a hero to those victims around them.
Stand Up: For Yourself
When you have a kind child trying to do the right thing and obey all the rules at school, it can be difficult for them to understand that it is okay to stand up for yourself. They need to know that it should not be customary to habitually deal with bullying at school or anywhere else. Kids should be treating each other respectfully, and that is the norm and the standard by which your kids should be gauging their experiences at school.
If that is not occurring, then they must know that it is okay to speak up and tell a teacher. They can ask the bully to stop what they are doing. In extreme cases, it may be necessary for them to physically protect and stand up for themselves as well. None of this should be viewed as “bad” behavior—they must have confidence that they do not deserve to be treated this way.
Stand Out: Be Kind
In a world that sometimes seems self-involved, teach your child ways to stand out with exceptional and intentional kindness. Proactively watch for ways to meet a need or to brighten someone’s day. It is so often the little smiles, the open doors, and the help with dropped books that will turn someone’s day completely around. Fight bullying with kindness.
Another thing for kids to consider is that sometimes bullies are just crying out for help with their actions. They might simply need someone being a friend to them, or making an effort to meet their meanness with niceness, to make all the difference in their lives and soften their spirit.
Stand Out: Be You
A main approach bullying takes is targeting differences in a child—they are too small, too nice, too smart, clumsy, quirky, or a minority in some capacity. It may be hard for some kids to process that getting picked on because of their uniqueness is actually a good thing—it means there is something special about them. However, as parents and educators, we should work to celebrate those qualities that make each child unique. For example, if a child is picked on because of their size, show the child actors and athletes with similar statures who have excelled. Encourage them to find ways that they can do things that others can’t. The more we build their confidence, the less the bullies will be able to hurt their feelings.
If a bully targets your child, it is likely out of jealousy or envy for some aspect of their lives. Even if the unique quality is something not considered “good,” like being clumsy, the bully is likely still struggling with some other aspect or skill which your child is good at. Find those other characteristics of your child and focus on them. “You may not be able to dribble a soccer ball, but you sure are good at art. Show me again your last painting!”
Bullying is a complex issue with many components and implications to consider. If you feel like your child may need a alternate school environment, online learning may be a good solution for your family. K12 offers tuition-free public school at home—creating a safe learning space for your child.