“Bullying is associated with negative consequences that can last far longer than the years a child spends in school…” -Coach Kevin Kearns, Always Picked Last
Has your child come home crying because a child was mean at school? Have you overheard mean comments on the playground? How responsible are we as parents, for these comments and actions of our children? What examples do we set?
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, these questions, and others are always on our minds at TWE. Does adult behavior influence bully behavior in children? Though bullying will never be completely eradicated, saying “kids will be kids” to excuse bad behavior and say it’s “no big deal” is NOT acceptable. Ignorance is a major part of the problem. Statistically, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among school aged Americans, resulting in 4,400 deaths per year. Victims of bullying are between 2 and 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims. Again, “how much do we as adults impact bully behavior in children?” If we’re working to stop or prepare children for when it happens, we contribute to a percentage of 4,400 annual youth suicides. Sadly 64% of children who are bullied do not report it. When incidents are not reported, schools and school officials are unable to identify the scope or frequency of bullying, which hampers the ability of the school system to act quickly.
Bullying is most often reported when injury, physical threats, destruction of property, happens outdoors but outside school building, or on the school bus. Bullying is less likely to be reported when it involves ridiculing, name calling, exclusion from activities, spreading rumors, or forcing others to do things he/she does not want to do. All these incidents are demeaning, and extremely damaging to a developing sense of self worth – and statistically lead to severe depression, self-harm, or suicide. So why aren’t these incidents reported as often as they occur? Often, victims of “un-reported” bullying think they “should be able to handle it” or “ignore it and it will go away” because they have been told by a trusted adult. The first thing adults can do is to encourage children to speak up if they or someone else is getting bullied, even if there’s no physical harm.
What happens when children cannot escape bullying? When it follows them home and bypasses parents and educators? Unfortunately, half of all teens have or will experience cyber bullying: bullying through smart phones, computers/tablets, or internet connected tools allowing access to email and social media. Cyber bullies are experts at provoking and making others feel ashamed, embarrassed, ostracized, or unloved. Often, cyber bullying is not reported. Since it can happen at home without human contact, it can be difficult to see signs it is occurring. It is important to inform children about cyber bullying, that it is NOT okay, and to always talk to a trusted adult about anything someone says to you online via text/tweet/post that makes you feel uncomfortable. Encourage children to ask for help and provide them with tools to defend against cyber bullies, such as:
- Don’t respond to negative comments, texts, or emails. DO NOT RESPOND. Bullies feed off reactions, so don’t give them one.
- Record and collect evidence. Write what and who said it, even if it makes you feel bad. Take screen shots. Share information with a trusted adult.
- Tell someone what is going on. Talk to a trusted adult. Do not try to deal with this on your own. If the first adult you tell doesn’t listen or help, tell someone else, and keep telling until a trusted adult helps you.
- Block people who bully you from your phone or social media account. Ask an adult to help you do this. If this doesn’t work, ask to change phone numbers or email accounts. If problems continue, adults should contact police. MOST CYBER BULLYING tactics are against the law!
Be strong as a person. Find friends who treat you how you want to be treated, who are interested in you and what you do. Know who you are and be true to yourself. It’s not easy, but it’s the BEST defense against bullies, who try to create weaknesses and insecurities. If you are secure in who you are, what they say has little value.
As stated, some of the best advice adults can give a child is SPEAK UP! However, kids can be notoriously tight lipped, especially with things that are embarrassing or difficult to talk about like bullying. How can you know if your child is being bullied? Here are some signs to look out for:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Declining grades
- Not wanting to go to school
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Changes in eating habits
- Frequent stomach aches, feeling ill, or faking illness
- Sudden loss of friends or avoiding social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
As adults, we have a responsibility to take an active role in preventing and combating bullying. There is no way to completely eliminate it, but with some effort and awareness, we can make the consequences of it much less damaging. A great resource on bullying and bully prevention is a book from Sifu Sule’s friend and fellow martial art Coach Kevin Kearns’ book Always Picked Last. https://www.amazon.com/Always-Picked-Last-Conquering-Bullies-ebook/dp/B00DWSKELW
Fighting bullies helps keep our communities strong and empowers our youth to become the change we seek for them in the world!