Every day we send our kids to school with the hope they’ll be safe and treated well. Sometimes that’s not possible, as I found out firsthand when my son was in elementary school. Only the parent whose child has endured bullying behavior knows how unbearable it is to watch.
In March of last year, I posted an article for this column called “The Definition of Bully Proof.” The goal was to provide tips I developed while helping my own son who was being bullied thrive despite the experience. I based my points on the experiences I had while parenting my son through the process. And I’m happy to say it worked. By sharing what I’d learned, I was hoping other parents could help their children survive, or maybe even avoid, being bullied.
On our journey I also learned that preparing our children to face life’s challenges is important, but there’s another side to that coin.
Each day we need to send our children to school with the knowledge that it is in part their responsibility to put an end to bullying. Bully proofing our children is not limited to the victim.
Although no parent wants to think their child could be the perpetrator, in truth they are all capable of it. Through tactics like exclusion, spreading rumors and humiliation, I’ve seen even the nicest of children become part of the problem. Somewhere along the line, they’ve learned to dehumanize one another for the sake of popularity.
So here’s another list for all of us to include on our bully proof agenda. Hopefully, it will be of use. Keep what you like, add what you want, and share if you can.
- Encourage your child to stand up for others if they see someone being treated badly, even if it might not look like bullying.
- Teach your kids that popularity is not more important than doing the right thing.
- Give your children specific ways to take action if they see someone in need.
- Don’t just say, “Go to a teacher.” Establish a specific person for them to confide in and let that person know to check in once in a while.
- Help your children to understand that there is no such thing as an “innocent bystander” and that stepping in is the right thing to do.
- Help them identify bullying behavior in others, but more importantly in themselves. It’s humbling, but everyone is capable of insensitivity at one point or another.
- Teach them how to take responsibility for their actions, despite the consequences.
- Teach them how to apologize properly—not just throwing out an “I’m SORRY!” Apologies come in three parts.
- Say what you did.
- Say why you did it.
- Give a sincere apology.
- Praise your children for any and all empathy they show to others. Reinforce the positive behavior.
- Remember that they learn their behavior from us. We are the role models. If they see us treating each other with disprespect, don't expect anything different from them. The apple doesn't fall far ...
One last thing—and I may get some flack for this—it is not the teacher’s responsibility to turn kids into decent human beings. They are meant to educate our children (a huge task) and to reinforce the values we teach at home by expecting good behavior. Our children will show the teacher and their classmates the same respect we show the teacher and their classmates. That's just how it works. And we can't expect that teacher to maintain control of the classroom without our support in that department.