This post is sponsored by Chase — a strong supporter of the Bully Project, a program committed to ending bullying and ultimately transforming society.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a parent nine years ago, it’s that the wisdom my dad gave me once is so very true: the older your kids are, the bigger the problems they face.
When our kids are little, we worry about teething pain and little battles with friends over preschool toys.
But as kids move through elementary school, our worries as parents grow. They’re thrust into a world for six to eight hours a day into which we parents only have the tiniest of windows.
Are they thriving academically? Do they have a sense of belonging? Are they happy? Do they get along with others?
As the parent of a very kind and sensitive boy, one of my greatest concerns is bullying. The 2008–2009 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that, nationwide, 28% of students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying (source: stopbullying.gov)
There’s so much great and positive dialogue happening right now on the subject – thanks to a lot of positive forces in our culture that are forcing us to re-examine this polarizing and sometimes painful topic.
I believe that the best step to being really prepared as a parent to help prevent, identify and foster change about bullying is to educate oneself and one’s family first and foremost.
Here are ways that we can educate ourselves and our families about bullying:
Understand what is bullying…and what is not
StopBullying.gov is a great resource for understanding the actual definition of bullying. It gives great examples of the different types of bullying. Remember that not all bullying involves a physical threat or physical injury.
Encourage an open dialogue about what bullying is with children
I believe that most kids have a pretty sound moral compass – a good sense of right and wrong – when they enter elementary school. Using simple terminology during a dinner conversation, parents can open an ongoing dialogue with kids about instances of school behavior that may or may not be bullying. Some kids will initiate this conversation themselves simply by relating events that may have happened on the school bus or playground that day. Parents can use these moments to spark discussion as well. Or, getting involved with movements like The Bully Project documentary and social cause can help, too!
Stay active in kids’ school activities
The more plugged in we can be to what’s happening at school, the better job we can do at continuing to educate and dialogue with our kids about the topic of acceptable school behavior and bullying. This past year, while standing on my daughter’s school playground before school started, I watched two first-grade boys violently wrestling with each other and repeatedly slamming each other to the asphalt. While both boys were happy participating in this rough play, I pointed out the behavior to my daughter and talked through how this was both unsafe and inappropriate. I then let the teacher know that the behavior continued over a period of days.
This particular instance was not bullying, but unchecked aggressive behavior can leave the door to bullying wide open.
Have an action plan and let kids know how to follow it
It’s funny. We have fire drills, stranger-danger awareness, and we tell kids how to dial 911, but how many of us have an action plan for bullying? Before one’s child is a victim (or the bully!), it is wise to have a plan that can help kids alert you to problems before they escalate. It can be as simple as “if any of these 5 things happen to you at school or on the bus, you should tell Mom and Dad” or “if you ever start to feel like maybe you want to be really mean to a classmate and you don’t understand why, come talk to us.”
Kids need to have a safe place to land, whether they be potential target or potential bully.
With these simple steps, you can start getting your kids ready to deal with this sensitive topic. What do you think? Have you begun to talk about bullying prevention with your children?