Whether your child has been bullied in the past, or has been accused of bullying, you may find yourself keeping a watchful eye for any signs of a problem.
The sooner these signs are recognized and addressed the better your chances are of resolving the issue quickly.
I named this column There’s No Such Thing As A Bully for one reason. I’ve learned it’s important to separate the behavior from the child and teach our kids that their actions are a choice.
I know many out there may disagree. I’ve spoken to more than a few people who seem convinced that certain kids are “just bullies.” I guess in some cases that may be somewhat true, but I can’t help but wonder how much of that is because someone labeled them a “bully” early on, or missed an opportunity to guide their behavior when it counted.
I’ve also met parents who think that some kids “ask for it” when it comes to being picked on. I’ve even heard one administrator say something to that effect.
Then there are those who refuse to believe that their child could ever possibly be a bully, which can be problematic. Labeling our children as “perfect” and becoming blind to negative behavior does them no good. In fact, it could cause their downfall.
I recently had a parent come to me, upset because she worried that her daughter was choosing bullying behavior, without realizing it or even understanding the consequences. This is a very sweet little girl and her mom was frustrated that she’d even consider behaving this way. She made it clear to her daughter that she was “being a bully.”
Her daughter was confused. She said, “But she's not my friend. Why do I have to be nice to her?”
When her mother asked my advice, I told her that I usually try to avoid the label of “bully.” Instead of reaffirming the behavior, I divide and conquer by saying, “You’re a good person, and good people don’t treat others that way—even if you don’t consider them a friend. I’m sure it was a mistake. and you owe her an apology."
I’ve found this has worked rather well. When my daughter was little, I made sure to comment on her good character quite often and, as she got older, she began to refer to herself as a “good person.” She understood the definition of that and her behavior followed suit.
Nobody’s kids are perfect, and it’s not always easy to be honest with ourselves about the behavior of our children, but the truth is they’re counting on it. And they’re also counting us to remind them of who they are and who they can be.
Taryn Grimes-Herbert is a screenwriter, performer and the author of the I’ve Got character-building book series for children, and was 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.