Stop Bullying: Part II
This is the long-overdue second post in my anti-bullying series. You can read the first post here. Bullying is a serious problem that requires our attention. Raising awareness of the issue and teaching our children that bullying is not acceptable are both important ways to combat bullying. Teaching our children to be kind to everyone and inclusive of others is also important, and something I discuss in my first post of the series. However, there are multiple ways to approach and solve a problem. We also need to teach our children healthy coping skills, how to process difficult emotions, and to defend themselves.
Zero Tolerance: Turn the Other Cheek
When I was growing up, my generation was taught to never start a fight. But if someone started a fight with us, we were taught to defend ourselves. However, today we face the Zero Tolerance policy in schools. Today as a parent, I worry that if I teach my children to defend themselves against bullying, they may be unfairly suspended or expelled. Are there any other parents out there that have this same concern?
More on the Zero Tolerance policy, it seems it is another way of saying “turn the other cheek.” Being a moral concept taught in the Bible, it seems noble in this light. But just as we develop physically in stages – first we turn over, then we crawl, and then we walk – we develop morally in stages as well. Are our young children mentally, emotionally and morally developed enough to grasp and practice this concept? In not allowing them to defend themselves, are we by default teaching them to be victims?
So how do we deal with bullying? Raising awareness of bullying and promoting kindness is important. But no matter how much we may decrease the problem, it will never completely go away. There will always be bullies. This is why we need to teach our children good and healthy coping skills to combat this problem. Just like we cannot always be there to tie our children’s shoes or do their laundry, teaching them healthy and effective social coping skills is vital to their living a happy, healthy life.
My Little’s preschool sets an excellent example of teaching healthy coping skills. When children are having difficulty working out their frustrations, they go to the thinking step. Next to the thinking step is a poster with different faces expressing different emotions. They spend time thinking about what it is they are feeling and different ways they can choose to deal with those emotions. Instead of being punished for experiencing emotions we all feel, they are taught how to understand them and work through them. Below are some of the coping skills taught at the preschool, as well as a few thoughts of my own.
We need to stop teaching our children to be victims and teach them healthy coping skills instead
Be assertive. This should be the first go-to. Teach our children to state how hurtful comments make them feel and tell bullies to stop. Sometimes children know they’re being hurtful; sometimes they don’t. Likewise, sometimes this tactic will work, and other times it won’t. But no one can change something if they don’t know they’re doing something wrong in the first place.
Idioms. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. We all learned this when we were little. Have you taught your children this little idiom yet? Nursery rhymes and idioms have been used for centuries to teach children important life lessons, but it seems many of us are falling away from this practice today. My Little’s preschool teacher has been a teaching preschoolers for a couple decades now, and she’s noticed that many children no longer know their nursery rhymes. I remember classmates saying hurtful things when I was in elementary school, and somehow repeating these words to them made me feel better. In saying it, I believed it.
Ignore them. Bullies often want a reaction. Ignoring them denies them that satisfaction. I tell my Littles to let it “roll off their shoulders” when someone says something unkind to them. It gives me so much joy to hear them repeat those words back to me and see how they simply decide to not allow a hurtful comment to effect them.
Walk away. Remove yourself from the situation. Walk away, play on another part of the playground, stand somewhere else in line, sit somewhere else on the bus. If someone is being unkind, we can choose to not allow them any of our time.
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. When someone bullies others, it is a reflection of their character, not our own. They are likely lacking self esteem or generally unhappy. They take out their frustrations on others or seek to pull others down to make themselves feel better. Talking through these different possibilities and teaching our children to put themselves in someone else’s shoes helps them put the situation into perspective. It teaches them to not take hurtful comments personally. And it teaches them to not base their self esteem on how others treat them. Self worth comes from within, not from without.
Stand up for others. Not only do we need to teach our children to stand up for themselves, but we need to teach them to stand up for each other. We need to teach them not to be passive observers when they see someone being bullied. Our children will find strength in numbers.
When Words Aren’t Enough
All the coping skills mentioned above are nonviolent. But what happens when bullying moves beyond words? What do we teach our children then? That is the burning question I leave with you today; I would love to hear your thoughts on the issue.
For more reading on this topic, check out my post Small Acts of Kindness: A New Way to Celebrate Valentine’s Day or 10 Children’s Books that Teach Friendship and Kindness.
Questions of the Day
- Is it better to teach our children to turn the other cheek or to teach them to defend themselves against bullies?
- How do you teach your children to deal with bullies?