Bullying is an issue. We seem to be living in a narcissistic society where no one is considering the harm their actions may be causing other people. The worst part of all is now bullies can torture others from the comfort of their homes. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have become a feeding ground for cowards; a place where abusers can lurk in the shadows of fake names and anonymity.
In my last article, I wrote about how to raise your child to be impervious to bullying. Some people did not like the article. I am ok with that; I know that I may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I also know I am a good mom and a good dance teacher. I know that I have helped a lot of kids and have made a positive impact on the lives of many children. The advice that I share is purely from experience and learning from the many children and parents I have been involved with over the years. I have worked with kids who have been bullied and kids who have been doing the bullying.
The pressing question is when is bullying going to stop? When is it going to go out of style? Sadly, it won’t. Bullying is not a trend, it seems as though it is embedded in our society, from playground bullying in elementary school to news reports on which celebrity has not lost their most recent baby weight. The only way we have a chance to stop bullying is if we raise our children to value each other.
Raise your child to care about the feelings of others. Great leaders put the needs of others before their own, so encourage them to be leaders. Encourage them to lead with kindness.
Teach your children to be willing to admit they are wrong and to be ready and willing to apologize, even if they did not intend on being hurtful. I once had a student who was on what I call a nasty streak. She was making everyone around her miserable. In one particular situation, she had really hurt one of her classmate’s feelings but didn’t feel like she needed to apologize because, she said, she didn’t hurt her feelings on purpose. Even more disturbing, her mom didn’t think her daughter need to apologize either. Apologizing is not a sign of weakness, admitting you were wrong should not be a blow to your ego or your child’s ego. Kids will make mistakes; sometimes just saying I’m sorry can fix the problem.
When you do get news that your child is doing or saying things that may have been hurtful address it swiftly and seriously with your child. If you automatically think your child has not done anything wrong you may be missing an opportunity to teach them how to be a better person. There are many times when kids will do or say things without harmful intentions but other kids may still get their feelings hurt. The important part of situations like these is not that your child didn’t mean any harm, the important part is someone’s feelings were hurt. That needs to be acknowledged and apologies need to be made.
Don’t dismiss your child’s bad behavior because they were not the only one involved. Just because other kids do it or did it, does not make it ok that your kid did it too. Teaching your child personal responsibility may be the most important value you can teach him or her.
Give your children opportunities to give. Sign them up to volunteer with a community organization. Volunteer as a family. Let your children see you volunteer and make sure they know you think giving back is important.
This is the most important one. Parents, model good behavior. Our children are a product of ourselves. Treat people around you with kindness and respect.
In my experience when children are involved in a positive activity they are passionate about, and exposed to good role models they become better people. Having the ability to impact someone’s day is a powerful thing. We can all choose to use this power for good or for evil. Let’s continue to encourage our kids to be involved in organizations that give back and impact those around them in a positive way. Giving feels good, to everyone involved. If a child feels like they matter, like their actions make a difference to someone, they will continue to choose to impact those people around them in a positive way.
We are very fortunate to live in a community where we have a ton of organizations that make it a priority to give back. Even at our local schools, our kids have many opportunities to give back to the community. My daughter goes to Bristow Middle School. She has been fortunate enough to participate in a class that requires outside service hours and the kids are given a ton of opportunities to volunteer. These experiences are helping her become a person who loves to give back to her community and make a positive impact on the lives of the people around her.
My dance studio has recently become a chapter for a nationally recognized honor society. One of the requirements to be part of the honor society is two service projects. I am very excited to induct a group of exceptional junior high and high school age dancers this January. The kids involved are committed to making a change in our community. Their first service project is centered on anti-bullying. All of the honor society members have had some kind of experience with bullying, they know how devastating it can be and they want it to stop. These dancers are getting their kicks (pun very much intended) by raising people up and not tearing them down.
Whether you are trying to not raise a pansy or bully a lot of the same themes and values apply. Really it all boils down to raising kids who have good self-esteem, who care about and respect the people around them and who have a strong sense of self-worth. It really does take a village to raise a child and we all have to work together to make sure our kids grow up to be contributing members of society who can take care of themselves, their families and hopefully do some good in our world. If parents, teachers, coaches and community leaders make it a priority to raise kids who are confident, respectful, kind and giving we may be able to win the fight against bullying for the generations to come and maybe even make some big positive change in our world.