8 ways to help end bullying this month

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Bullying is an age-old problem; however, after the shootings at Columbine High School, experts and educators began to recognize that bullying can have deadly consequences if not addressed. Since 2006, the month of October has been designated as National Bullying Prevention Month. October 19th is national anti-bullying awareness day and by wearing orange you can show your support.

Despite the increase in bullying awareness, bullying continues to exist.

“One of every four school-aged children will be bullied this year — upwards of 13 million students,” said Julie Hertzog, director of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, which sponsors Unity Day and founded National Bullying Prevention Month in 2006. “It’s important these students know they are not alone and that they have the right to feel safe. By joining together and wearing orange on Unity Day (Oct. 19), we can send the unified message that we care about student’s physical and emotional health and that bullying will no longer be accepted in this society.”

One tricky aspect of bullying prevention is that bullies are often not unpopular and ostracized children themselves. A 2000 study by psychologist Philip Rodkin, Ph.D., involving elementary school-age boys, found that boys who bully are well-liked by peers and teachers alike, and that many are not the insecure and anxious children who pick on others due to their own low self-esteem. This is an element of some bullies, but many children bully because they can and it allows them to feel a sense of a power; a feeling many youth crave.

Here are eight suggestions for how, together, we can help to stop the bullying cycle:

1. Role model.

Parents and adults need to commit to lead with kindness and showcase positive behavior to all children, who naturally mimic the behavior of adults. Limit the reality TV that may emphasize bullying behaviors and, instead, focus on acts of kindness and tolerance of others.

2. Stop sibling bullying.

A study, published in 2014 in the journal Pediatrics, found that adults who reported being bullied by a sibling as a child had an increase in mental health symptoms. Recognize the difference between rivalry and bullying. Bullying occurs when there is a clear power differential between two siblings and when the two siblings almost never share any kindness.

3. Empower bullying bystanders.

Ask your well-adjusted, typical children, who are neither bullies nor victims of bullies, if they witness bullying, and ask them what they do to stop it. Explain that even when bullying is not happening to them, they can help prevent it by speaking out against bullying when they see it happen. Praise and reward children who do take an active stand against bullies.

4. Teach ways to cope.

Teach victims of bullies to look the bully in the eye and ignore him or her; teach the victim to actively ignore name calling by instead thinking positive thoughts, such as “I am a kind person with a loving family and friends and this bully is not.” Teach the bully victim to walk in groups and practice having him stand up to the bullying while in groups. Practice, in front of a mirror at first, comebacks such as “Yeah, whatever,” or “I know you’re talented at being mean.” The victim can say these comebacks as he or she is walking away from the bully.

5. Younger children have a voice.

Children younger than middle school-age may have an easier time standing up because the teachers have more control and children tend to be on a more equal playing field at younger ages. Teach the bully victim to say “stop!” or “knock it off!” This demonstrates that he is able to defend himself against bullying without being a direct tattletale.

6. Reframe name-calling.

Name-calling is nothing to be afraid of, and it doesn’t have to shake the victim’s confidence. The bully victim can smile and keep walking, acting as if it never happened.

7. Always inform the school of the bullying.

Talk to the school staff about your child’s fears and ask the staff for ways they can support the victim. For example, ask if he can be with a friend at all times during passing time, so that he has support around him.

8. Watch for cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is on the rise with teens’ increasing use of technology via social media sites and apps. Have victims of cyberbullying block bullies immediately and report cyberbullying to school and local authorities. If your teen is a victim, limit his use of social media as chances are it will happen again. The less he uses social media, the less the bullying will happen. Cyberbullying only works if victims know of it.

Parents, if your child is bullied, don’t give up. Bullies are everywhere and it’s important to teach your child strategies for responding to bullies. Together, we can help stop bullying by raising awareness this October, and every day after.

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