Most of us are concerned about bullying. We worry that our children are going to be victims of bullying. Not enough of us worry that somehow our child will be the bully. I know it's difficult for most of us to imagine that our children could be bullies, and most of them aren't. BUT I do think that many of them could do or say something to a child that is often a victim of bullying that just adds to the hurt. Maybe they also don't pick that kid to play, or they don't sit by that kid at lunch. Even these little things can make a child feel bad. It's very hard, if not impossible for all kids to look out for the kid that is getting picked on or left out. Sometimes it's not obvious to others that a child is being bullied. There are things we can do as parents to encourage our children to not become bullies.
We also need to listen to other parents and teachers that may approach us about our children. We need to watch their online activity. We need to pay attention to their behavior. I just watched a story today about a young girl that was bullied so much that she committed suicide. She was popular, an athlete, a straight A student. She tried to handle the situation herself. She didn't want her parents to get involved for fear of making it worse. Her parents initially let her try to handle it, but they couldn't take it very long. They contacted the school and they said they would investigate, but nothing changed. They even contacted the mother of one of the bullies and that mother allegedly defended her child's actions. They were just being kids/tweens. Just because bullying has happened for years is no excuse for letting it continue.
Bullying is NOT the same as it used to be. Thanks to technology it's easier to access other children. It's also much easier to be much crueler online than it is in person. As parents, we need to protect our children from becoming bullies. Just like we protect them from other dangers, we need to help guide them in their interactions with other children. We need to talk to them about social media and how they need to be responsible users. So many adults have not learned this lesson. I get it, it's easy to say the first thing that pops into your head when you see or read something online. We all need to work on that filter that keeps us from saying or typing something that is hurtful or just plain mean.
When I was younger, going into high school, I think, I heard a piece of advice that worked really well. Someone told me that I should never do anything that I would be embarrassed to tell my grandparents. I did think about this a lot as a young person. So often kids just act and react. Their brains are not fully developed and impulse control is not something young people are known for. They need us to continue to guide and teach them. I'm not saying we should helicopter over them, but if they suddenly are leaving out a person that used to be a friend, find out why. If they are very concerned with being popular, they may be hurting others to gain that popularity. Listen to how they talk about classmates, are they making fun of people? Do they mock people in the community that have differences? If they are indifferent or uncaring about people that are seen as outcasts, or that don't fit in with the majority, they could be a bully. Be sure that your children see you being kind to everyone
What can we do to try to set them up to be kind and caring? Model it for them. Kids often will treat other that way that they are treated or the way they see their family treat others. Be sure that your children see you being kind to everyone. Don't belittle people on TV, even characters on TV should not be bashed. Kids don't necessarily think about those characters as not being real people. One thing to remember is that not all kids that struggle at school with behavior or all kids that become bullies have uncaring parents or parents that are bad examples. I really think that most parents really want to be good examples and want their children to be kind and caring. Some kids have so much going on that they become overwhelmed and act out. Some times kids are really good at keeping it together in front of others only to snap and explode. It's important to really see our kids. How do they interact with others? Does your child always struggle with coaches or teammates? This could also be a sign that something is going on.
It is our responsibility to protect our children, from bullies and from becoming a bully. I cannot imagine another child wanting to kill themselves because of something my child has said or done. I cannot imagine the guilt that my child would suffer if they did something that encouraged another child to harm themselves. Please be aware of your child's actions. Please help put an end to bullying. It's not ok at any age!