I hate the devastation bullying can cause. I'm trying really hard to get myself out of the mental habit of thinking, "I hate bullies" because I don't think that's a useful or productive way to think. But when I contemplate the way bullying can literally ruin someone's life, the way it can erode self-esteem, robbing people of happiness or of life itself, I wish there were something I could do to lessen its impact.
That's why I was glad when my picture book, Monster Maddie, was published. I hoped it might help kids recognize that their own behaviour could be bullying, and help them see that there is always a different way to act. When Jeanne from A Peaceful Day reviewed my book, I realized all over again that bullying can be anywhere in our society and I echoed Jeanne's heartfelt plea: "Don't assume that your nice children would never bully another child. Please."
In fact, I urge all parents to discuss bullying with their kids. Even if you don't think your children are victims of bullying, or bullies, you can't watch over them every minute. Helping kids role play bullying scenarios so they have a possible plan of action, or reading and discussing books or videos about bullying means that you and your child are not powerless. You're taking what action you can to say NO to bullying.
Sharing a book with your child which has a bullying theme is one way to bring up the subject. I recommend Susanne Gervay's I am Jack, Blubber by Judy Blume, and a wonderful picture book, One, by Kathryn Otoshi. Jeanne also discusses the Newbery Honor book, The Hundred Dresses on her blog today, in a post I urge you to read. For kids who are being bullied, it really can help to know they're not alone, that others have suffered and survived. For kids who are bullying others, it may lead to that aha! moment when they realize their behaviour constitutes bullying, and that they are hurting someone else. Dawn at Moms Inspire Learning has great suggestions for books to share with your tweens and teens, too.
There are also internet resources that might be useful to you. Beatbulllying.org has lesson plans and tips for parents, the anti-bullying alliance has many resources, including ideas for school assemblies and plays, and Bullying.No Way! (Australian website) has excellent information about being a bystander during bullying.
- Bullying is a difficult problem that only gets worse when it is ignored. Research has demonstrated that bystanders play a significant role in bullying.
- Bystanders are present most of the time (85%), where adults are rarely present
- Most young people feel uncomfortable but very few know what to do to stop it happening
- Bullying behaviour is reinforced where people watch but do nothing
- When bystanders do intervene, the bullying is more likely to stop quickly most of the time.(Bullying.No Way!)
If you'd like an activity for kids to participate in after your discussion, how about creating a poster, making a puppet show, creating a digital story, or even writing a script and making a little video at Xtranormal? A follow-up activity like this helps kids consolidate what they've learned, gives them an opportunity for creative self-expression and can give you an insight into how much they've understood. If you'd like your kids to see some student-made anti-bullying movies, check out Bullying. No Way! Or to take a look at a Book Chook example made at Xtranormal, click below.
Bullying seems a huge problem, just like lack of literacy, or governments neglecting libraries. Rather than allowing ourselves to feel overwhelmed and powerless about it, I believe we should start with one step in the right direction, then another, then another. If we all work together, I truly believe we can make a change in society. If we can stop one child going to bed each night in tears, if we can prevent one suicide or total breakdown, why wouldn't we try? Are you with me? I'd love you to tweet this post or email it to friends who might be interested, so together we can say NO to bullying!
Image credit : poster by Book Chook based on pic from Chesi - Fotos CC on Flickr