Were you bullied as a kid? Bullies tend to target people who are different, and I definitely grew up in a family that was “different”. There were ten of us (twelve counting my parents), and we traveled from country to country – so we were always new kids. Most of us were shy. I remember kids teasing me, and once, in middle school, a boy punched me in the face. To avoid bullying in middle school, I learned to ask my teachers for permission to leave class and do the day’s assignment in the library, on my own. They let me, and the library became my haven.
I moved to a new school in a new country for high school, and was assigned a locker next to a student who always said hello to me, always asked how I was doing, and always listened to my answer. I have always been grateful for that high school student who reached out to an awkward new kid and was her friend. The school also worked hard to prevent and eliminate bullying. I was able to regain the confidence I had lost, and I thoroughly enjoyed high school.
I want my kids to grow up to be like the boy at the locker next to mine. He knew how to be kind. And, to me, that made all the difference.
Here are a few things I know about bullying:
- People bully when they feel insecure. Often, child bullies are being treated poorly at home.
- There are lots of ways to be a bully. Being punched in the face is fairly overt, but in some ways I found the resulting swollen lip less painful than the fourth grade teacher who devoted class time to rants about how my parents were overpopulating the world.
- It is easy to be a bully. I know I have done things that hurt others without intending to – simply by not thinking.
Preventing bullying starts at home. Here are a few things I am teaching my kids:
- Different people like different things. It’s okay for people to like things you don’t like, and for you to like things that other people don’t like.
- Different people worry about different things. It is not okay to make fun of something that worries someone else, even if worrying about it does not make sense to you. Don’t tease others.
- People are always more important than things. Never fight over an object. Toys that are fought over in my house get put in time out, until they can be shared nicely.
- If someone is doing something you don’t like, talk to them about it in a calm voice. Don’t assume that people are doing things just to upset you.
- If you don’t like something someone is doing and they won’t stop, walk away. Get help from a responsible adult (parent or teacher) if you need to.
- If someone is hurting someone else, find a responsible grown up.
I also spend time talking to my kids about their days at school, and any topics that are on their minds. I try to be kind myself, every day.
What are you doing to prevent bullying?