Bullying is nothing new. It’s practically been a staple in the school system since the advent of a school system. You’re either the bully, the bullied, or the bystander. Honestly? Human nature knows no bounds when it comes to passive and aggressive cruelty. And it’s made much worse when it’s kids being cruel since their moral compasses are still in the R&D stage, where true north isn’t really true so all they can is stumble around and guess till they figure it out themselves. Which won’t go well unless it’s an educated figuring out; they need a guide to help them develop this moral compass into a fully fledged functioning one, complete with the occasional magnetic blip. (We’re humans. We make mistakes all the time. It’s nothing to stress over). So, how do we teach our lovely little gremlins right from wrong? How to treat people with respect and dignity? How to be a decent human being? How not to be a bully?
Ask them: Why are you doing this to them, specifically? Ask why their victim deserves to be name called, harassed, pushed and pulled. Ask them, what it is about that particular person that warrants this behaviour. Ask them if it’s an appropriate way to treat someone. Ask them if they’d like to be treated the way they’re treating their victim.
Examine their behavior with them. Pick it apart, break it down to play-by-plays. Get them to face what they’ve been doing. Don’t stop asking why until they gave you a straight answer. If it’s because they’re acting out, resolve that issue in their lives. If it’s simply a case of “Because” tell them, in no certain terms, why what they’re doing is inappropriate, wrong, and unfair. Have a conversation about right and wrong, the proper and not proper way to treat other people.
Let them know that it isn’t their fault. Don’t say it’s happening because the bully is jealous of them. That just tells the kid that jealousy is something to be blamed on others and you’re unaccountable for your feelings and actions. Tell them that it’s the bully’s fault, not theirs. They’re not picked on for being themselves.
Tell them that there’s always going to be someone to listen to them. That their feelings are valid. No one is going to dismiss them here. Make sure they know they have a space safe with you. A large number of bullied victims don’t report their bullying because they think that it won’t make any difference, so be the difference that changes this.
Let them know that their self worth isn’t ties up in how others see them, and the bully can’t make them feel any worse if they don’t let them.
Tell them that speaking up is always better than saying silent. Teach them that staying silent when something like this happens isn’t something they should do. They don’t have to confront a bully if they feel scared, but telling an adult after is the best thing they can do.
Teach them that they don’t have to stand for any intolerance, and that there’s always a way to deal with it. Being a bystander and letting bullying happen is just as bad as bullying itself.
Open and honest communication is the key to combating bullying. It starts from home. Teach your kids about honesty, empathy and compassion. See how it teaches them to decide what it right and what it wrong themselves. See how it changes the world.
Emily Thompson, Cyber Safety Consultant
Just a neighborhood Mum (and coincidentally a Cyber Safety Consultant) passionate about child and teen online safety. I’m a firm believer of building a loving and trusting relationship between parent and child through open dialogue, education, and monitoring measures (when and if necessary).