How Do We End Bullying? Teach Kids They Are NOT Victims
I read an article this morning that said most parents aren't quite sure how to handle a bullying situation where their child is the one being bullied, which is probably why so many kids are being bullied every year. As someone who experienced bullying firsthand as a kid, and has had kids in school for the last 14 years, here are my thoughts.
Bullying has and will probably always be an issue. Just like we'll never completely rid society of thieves and people who wish to do others harm, I just don't think we'll ever get to the point where all of our children are perfect little angels who never pick on another human being. Does that mean we ignore the problem? Absolutely not. But, I'm not sure all of these anti-bullying campaigns or public service announcements are the answer. In my humble opinion, if parents did their jobs kids wouldn't contemplate (or in some tragic cases, commit) suicide to deal with it. Wanna stop bullying in it's tracks? We should teach our kids to stop being victims.
Anytime I've discovered one of my kids was being picked on, I did not... and let me repeat this, did NOT, immediately march to the principal's office demanding the offending child be punished. In my opinion, that's probably the worst thing you could do and you might just make the situation worse. I am very firm in my belief that kids need to learn how to deal with their own problems, even when it comes to being picked on. Mom and Dad are not going to be there when the kids are 30 and having issues with a co-worker at work. We can't walk our kids through life helping them solve all of their problems. It's our job to assist them, guide them, give them advice, etc., but ultimately they need to be the ones to resolve the issue (and I believe that the VAST majority of cases where kids are being "bullied" can be solved this way).
I don't believe in treating my kids as if they're victims. I want to try to empower them and get them to believe that they can find a solution to this problem. They have the power to demand 'enough is enough,' to learn to ignore teasing or stand up to the people picking on them. When you're a victim, that implies you are powerless to do anything to stop what's happening to you. Kids who have taken their lives due to bullying did so because they felt like victims. They felt no hope that their situation would improve. One of our jobs as parents is to let our children know that there IS hope, that this isn't going to be something that's going to continue forever and there are ways to deal with the problem.
When I was in grade school, I was picked on a lot. Maybe it was because my family was poor and I wore Wal-Mart brand blue jeans. Maybe it was because I smelled funny. I really don't remember why, but I do remember very well it happening and I remember when I finally stood up and said "enough is enough." This bullying went on for years. I was a victim. I was powerless to stop what they were doing to me. I'd tell my teachers, the bullies would get licks then wait a few weeks and "get even" with me for tattling and the cycle continued.
Finally, in 6th grade, my grandpa found out what was happening and got involved. No, he didn't drive to the school. He sat me down and explained to me that I was NOT a victim, that I did have the power to stop this and that my situation WASN'T hopeless. It wasn't a week later I had the opportunity to confront my bullies. They decided they wanted the seat I was sitting in on our bus and when I refused to give it up, they decided to squeeze me up against the wall until I finally gave in and gave up my seat. That day, I was determined I was no longer going to be a victim and get pushed around. I wasn't taking it anymore. So, I gritted my teeth and the harder they squeezed, the harder I held in my urges to yell out in pain or move out of that seat. I stood my ground... and guess what? They stopped, gave up and moved to another seat. Neither one of those two ever picked on me again (one of them is my friend still to this day).
Each one of my kids has been bullied in one way or another and I can honestly say we've tackled each situation head on and in each instance we were able to find the solution that worked best for them.
For the record, I'm in no way saying that bullies shouldn't be punished if they are caught teasing or picking on other kids. However, the best way to end bullying is to empower children so they no longer look at themselves as victims. When there are no more victims, the bullies will have no one left to pick on.