October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.
Bullying has always been an issue, we (as a society) have begun taking it more seriously and are now able to better understand the effects of it. It seems to be starting at a younger and younger age. It’s not just middle schoolers, but kindergartners. October is used to shine a light on it and work on figuring how to prevent it from happening and how to encourage bystanders to speak up and help stop it. Three traits that can help prevent bullying as well as encouraging a child to stand up to wrong doing are confidence, knowing expectations, and having empathy.
Building a child’s confidence is one of the best ways to help prevent bullying. In building their confidence and self-esteem it helps them understand their value and that it goes beyond what someone else may say or think of them. A bully often targets someone with low self-esteem because they are able to create a power imbalance and get a reaction out of that person.
This doesn’t mean to create an ‘everybody gets a trophy’ environment. It means being sincere and specific with your praise. My daughter taught me this lesson. One night (she was 4 at the time) she came up to me and asked if I was proud of her. I, of course, said yes. She looks directly at me and says “why?” While I should have been able to give an immediate answer I was thrown off balance. She didn’t want me to just say I was proud, she wanted a reason why. She’s six now and I’ve learned that if she ask or if I tell her I’m proud of her I better have more than because you are sweet or smart.
Kids are smart. They don’t want fluff, they want a reason why. For example, “I’m proud of you because you always do your best even when it’s hard. Like when you didn’t understand your math problem but you didn’t give up.”
It’s been proven that setting expectations is a good thing. When a child knows what is expected of them, they generally will try and meet those expectations. If there are no expectations, or they aren’t communicated they how can a child learn anything? How can they know what they should do? Setting expectations of respecting others, standing up for those who can’t, being kind and including everyone are all reasonable expectations that kids can be given.
Teaching kids about empathy and helping them understand emotions can go a long way in helping them to not have bully tendencies. Talk about emotions. When a conflict arises, talk about what was felt and why. Discuss how it could be changed.
My kids are big Daniel Tiger fans. I love that the show is great at teaching empathy. When we watch it we’ll also talk about something that happened in our daily life that relates to it. My daughter was trying to put a puzzle together recently and was getting frustrated because it wasn’t working out. I borrowed Daniel Tiger’s “When you feel frustrated…take a step back…and ask for help.” So she got up for a minute and asked if I could help her figure it out. We found the correct piece together by looking at the different shapes and I helped her understand the difference in the shape she had and the correct one. She felt very accomplished once the puzzle was completed.
No matter what the age of a child is, you can find a way to talk out emotions and empathy whether in life examples or discussing something you’ve watched on tv or read together. When they are able to understand emotions and are able to have empathy for others it allows them to be less likely to become to bully to someone as well as be a friend to that person who is left out.