Bullying. It comes in three forms: emotional, verbal, and physical. It’s prevalent among children and teens and the problem seems to only be getting worse.
Now before you read any further, let me just preface this with the fact that I am NOT an expert by any means. I am a mother. I am a former kindergarten and first grade teacher. And I was raised to follow the golden rule of treating others the way you would like to be treated. Now, by all means, please read on.
I’m sure many of you have heard about the mother whose daughter was teasing a fellow fourth grader about her appearance so she decided to teach her a life lesson by having her wear unflattering thrift store clothes to school. You can read more about it here. Some professionals believe that this form of “shaming” is not the way to teach your child. I believe it depends on the situation and I, for one, believe this mother deserves to be commended for forcing her daughter to empathize with the girl she was bullying.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones for making it through the school years without having to deal with much bullying. Although it has always existed, it now seems out of control whether you live in the suburbs or an inner city school district. Too many times I have heard about a teenager who could not take anymore bullying from his or her peers and decided to end their own life. I cannot even wrap my brain around that. It is overwhelmingly tragic and heart-breaking. My husband is a high school teacher in an affluent, suburban school district and some of the stories he shares with me about the bullying that takes place in the school disgusts and infuriates me.
It starts at home. As parents, it is our responsibility to do the best we can to teach our children humility, compassion, empathy, and kindness (to name a few), and we should start when they are very young. It can be as basic as teaching your little one to share, play nice, be gentle, use kind words, say please, say thank you (I’m sure these sound familiar?). At times it may feel cumbersome repeating yourself over, and over, AND OVER again but when your child starts doing those things without you prompting them, or your reminders, it is such a great feeling. Those little, every day acts of kindness are the building blocks of their adult character!
That’s not enough though. If you’re going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. What effect do you think you will have if you tell your 8-year-old to use kind words with their siblings but do not show the same courtesy when you get angry with your children, spouse, or perhaps the parent of a child on the opposing sports team? Ok, we are human and make mistakes but I’m talking in general. Thinking before speaking or acting out can be extremely challenging, but it is also crucial.
Catch your children being good and reinforce the positive behavior you see. For example, whenever I see my 3-year-old share a toy with her 1-year-old sister I try to say something like, “Oh Caroline. You’re such a nice sister to share that with Emma!” I find the more I encourage a positive behavior, the more she continues that behavior (like sharing). Also, I try to teach empathy when she doesn’t want to share by asking her questions like, “How would you feel if Emma didn’t share her toys with you?” Sometimes she uses words like sad or mad in the right context and I know she is starting to learn how to put herself in other people’s shoes.
Clearly our children will be influenced throughout their life by more than just their parents (shocking, I know) and I have a feeling that once my girls reach their teens I will occasionally need to take a deep breath and remind myself that my husband and I have done our best to give them the tools, the building blocks, they need to be decent and moral human beings.
5 thoughts on “Bullying: What Can We Do?”
I love this post and agree with the mother. I think sometimes children and adults need to feel what the other child is feeling when being so malicious. She tried talking etc but was not reaching her. Sometimes kids can not grasp how it feels until they feel it. With that said I whole heartedly agree with showing compassion at home.
My sister was bullied a lot and I had to get in many fights while standing up for her and honestly the kids were mean but not from horrible families who were not parented well. I know many of the kids who bullied now and they are nice adults. Sometimes I feel like I read all of these articles about bullying and it mentions “other kids” and not the fact that many kids at some point will be bullied or do the bullying and most of the kids aren’t horrible. I love that this mother admitted publicly that her child was wrong and did something. Too many times parents would NEvER think THEIR kid would bully etc.
Great post Carly 🙂
I agree 100% that parents have a very serious responsibility to teach their children kindness to others. I am probably in the minority, but I do not agree with the way she went about it. In my opinion, bullying is making someone else feel small and helpless and like less of a person. I think in some ways, what the mom (and others in the new public shaming “trend”, if we can call it that) are doing is just that. I don’t know that it teaches them not to bully others in the long term, but rather, that there’s always someone bigger and stronger that can make YOU feel shame (just like bullies are doing to others). I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were that mom. I think there for SURE needs to be a swift and major lesson for her, but I do worry this might have just been a short-term solution that might ultimately make the kid more bitter and smug and vengeful. Just my thoughts…I know others may totally disagree! 🙂
Beautifully said Sarah – I agree 100%. While the mom may have had good intentions, I doubt her daughter picked up the message she was trying to send and I even have to wonder if that “punishment” doesn’t speak to the larger issue that lead to the daughter being a ruthless bully in the first place. Children bully to feel powerful and important. I believe an important part of my parenting will be to contribute to those needs of power and importance in my children so they won’t feel the need to resort to bullying. And, Carly, I think your suggestions to teach our children humility, compassion, empathy, and kindness would go a very long way towards that goal.
I agree with all of this, Carly. I also agree with what that mom did. If you read the article, she said her daughter was merciless in teasing another girl and even though the mom talked to her about it, the daughter was showing no indication that she was remorseful or understood the impact on the other girl.
Great post Carly! I love that you are teaching your girls kindness and empathy. And you are so right, as parents it’s our responsibility to show our kids the way and that means we have to be really aware of how we are acting too.