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Bullying hurts all involved

August 2, 2010

by Jenni Sebora

Bullying, name-calling, teasing, and such are behaviors and actions I will not accept when I work with children in any capacity.

Bullying can be verbal, psychological, or physical. Child behavior expert Merle Froschl noted in an article in Scholastic Parents that teasing becomes bullying when it is repetitive, or when there is a conscious attempt to hurt another child.

Whether at home with my own children, in my classroom, in a coaching session, or Scout troop meeting, I always tell the kids right from the get-go that fun is permissible, but negative behaviors of picking on others will not be accepted or tolerated. I am very passionate about setting the tone for a safe environment for everyone involved.

It is our job as adults, and especially as parents and caregivers, to teach our children about kindness and acceptance of others. Now, does that mean that everyone will be best friends? That certainly is not realistic, but it does mean that we treat others with respect.

Being on a team, together in a class, or as part of a family, we need to work together and not against each other. Teamwork is not about making someone else feel less about themselves, which is what bullying and teasing can do to the recipient. It is harmful for everyone involved.

Bullying types of behavior occur throughout the world, in various settings, and across gender and socio-economic lines. It is estimated that 20 to 30 percent of school-aged children are involved in bullying situations, either as the victim or as the perpetrator, www2scholastic.com noted.

Many times bullying is about being in control, and exerting power over a victim who may be shy or weaker than the perpetrator. Bullying behavior can be learned from older children, adults, parents, television, etc. How we, as adults and caregivers, talk and treat our children has an impact on their behavior.

It is important that we, as the adults, set the stage and ground rules that children need to be thoughtful of others. Teasing and bullying behavior is not behavior that we tolerate with the mindset that “kids will be kids.”

There are situations that kids need to work things out together, but the truth of the matter is that when there is teasing, taunting, and bullying behavior, we, as adults, need to intervene, and even more importantly, use preventative measures.

We need to set that stage with words and behavior that tell our children that they need to be respectful of others. Scholastic also offers these strategies: Model behavior that we expect from our children. Treat children with respect. Make sure that playdates are supervised. Intervene immediately when inappropriate behavior is observed; this sends a direct signal to all of the children involved.

While these strategies are extremely important, we may not always be around, and bullying and teasing can, and does, occur. We also need to teach our children to be assertive and to make eye contact. Teaching them to use “I” statements is important. “When you say that to me, it makes me feel annoyed. Please stop.”

If our child is the bully or the perpetrator, we need to let them know that it is not acceptable or appropriate. Work with them and teach them tools to correct their behavior and the situation.

Scholastic noted that besides soothing the victim’s hurt feelings, the objective is to give the child who was unkind a way to make amends, to learn a new habit, and feel better about themselves, too.

Bullying and teasing hurt. The victims may suffer emotionally and physically, may have troubles with school work, and concentrating. Difficulties with low self-esteem and depression may ensue, and these types of issues can persist into adulthood.

Research also shows that bullies are affected. They, too, may have difficulty forming good, healthy relationships. They may be more apt to delve into negative behaviors and situations, such as drug and alcohol use, and may even be abusive to others, including spouses, as they get older.

We need to have open lines of communication with our children, and always let our children know that they can share with us. Children’s feelings need to be acknowledged and taken seriously. If children are encountering bullying behavior, they need to know that they can come to us as their caregivers.

Again, it is imperative that we teach our children about kindness and respect.