In both a professional and personal context, I’ve recently been faced with talks of bullying rather frequently. This topic is becoming increasingly disturbing to me, as it seems to start as early as kindergarten, and carries right through high school. Themes seem to vary from what one child wears, eats, reads, watches, and sometimes, about nothing at all. Bullying is a topic which psychologists, sociologists, educators, and individuals from many other disciplines have explored, but there doesn’t seem to be a solid consensus on the origins of such behaviour. Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot we can do to stop it—yes, many schools have enacted ‘zero tolerance’ policies on bullying, however, this only stops the behaviour, not whatever it is that is fueling the behaviour. Certainly, this is a positive step in the right direction, here’s what I think we can do as parents, caregivers, and role models to take another small step in the right direction.
Teach Children to Stand Up for Themselves
Teach Children to Stand Up for Others
Don’t Impose Your Biases on Your Child
Teach Your Child to Be Proud of Who They Are
Now, let me explain this list using a real example my husband and I encountered this weekend. As the parents of a six year old boy, we are already beginning to hear stories about who was rude to who at school yesterday, and which kid got in trouble for what today. Our plan for this Sunday was to go out for lunch as a family, and then go see a movie. Being a little early for the new releases for the holiday season, we were left with only two G-Rated options: the Lego Ninjago Movie, or My Little Pony. So, to give you some background, our six year old son is an avid watcher of MLP on Netflix, having watched all
6 seasons that are currently streaming. With this in mind, we hesitated to let him know what his two options were, out of fear of him being made fun of. This thought stopped my husband and I dead in our tracks—us limiting our son from being himself is, indeed, part of a bigger problem. To be completely honest, part of the hesitation also came from our fear of what other parents would say about us taking our child to see a “girl movie”, a fear which came from past experience. The problem with sheltering him from this potential ridicule is multi-faceted: First, we would be robbing him of being true to himself– a six year old boy who loves space, reading, dinosaurs, and Pinky Pie. Secondly, let’s say for example he does get made fun of—if he does not get the opportunity at a young age to learn to stand up for himself, he will never learn the important skill of being able to stand up for others. Third, if he sees his parents, the people he looks to for guidance give in to stereotypes and essentially accept bullying behaviour as the norm, this invariably indicates to him that such behaviour is OK.
After we dissected this situation, and inevitably sucked all the fun and spontaneity out of picking a movie, we went and saw My Little Pony—we all got choked up at Twilight’s generosity, and felt good about making the right choice.