We can’t control the behavior of others, but we can choose how to respond to it—and how we respond to it reveals our character.
Behavior is a choice.
That’s why I try to avoid using the labels of either “bully” or “victim”—especially in my workshops. Once a child feels everyone has labeled them, it’s been my experience they’re less likely to feel like they can change (for more on that, go ). When we help kids recognize that the behavior they choose creates who they are and influences their future, they begin to take those choices a little more seriously.
That theory has a great deal to do with my choice to call this column “There’s No Such Thing As A Bully”—a title that has sometimes confused a few people—for a more detailed explanation, go .
Part of the reason I chose to share the details of my family’s experience with bullying was to encourage all parents to have respectful, open discussions, learn from one another and work together to help our kids through challenging social situations.
Over time, parents who were going through similar experiences reached out to me and to each other through this column. Sometimes they agreed, sometimes they had differing points of view, but that was the goal—to open our minds, learn from one another, work together and lead by example so our kids would see what it looked like to be respectful, even if we don’t agree.
When I asked my son if it was OK to include his story, he quickly nodded, adding that if we helped other children avoid some of the struggles he had to deal with, it was worth it. I was proud of him for that.
A while back, I shared a list of what I've learned helps a child become as "bully proof" as possible. I thought it would be a good time to share this again.
Bully-proof means that over time your children:
- learn that their safety and well-being is first on the priority list, and that their parents and school administrators will take appropriate action if necessary.
- have the confidence to speak up if someone is bullying them, and knows that they should never feel badly about doing so.
- feel that they are heard and taken seriously.
- are clear that if someone does bully them, it doesn’t make them a “loser” or the “bottom of the food chain.” It reflects on the character of the other person.
- understand that the negative behavior of others should not weaken their own character.
- develop an identity outside of school, which makes their world bigger and prepares them for their future.
- know that bad experiences can sometimes fuel great achievement if they channel their feelings through art, writing, music, academics, sports or other activities.
- are focused on their future and know that they can create the lives they want that don't have to include people who are abusive. It does get better.
- choose friends based on common interests and character.
- can embrace joy and develop a passion for something positive.
- understand they cannot change the behavior of others. They can only choose how they respond to it. And how they respond can greatly influence their future and reveals their character.
- avoid revenge mentality.
- begin to develop an inner confidence that is not based on the opinions of others.
Taryn Grimes-Herbert is the author of the I’ve Got character-building book series for children and 2010's Woman of Achievement in the Arts Honoree for Orange County, NY. Calling upon her professional acting experience on Broadway, film and television, she speaks out and takes her books into classrooms hoping to help kids build character, develop empathy and learn to create a positive future through creative dramatics activities.
For more information, visit http://www.ivegotbooks.net