The Anti-Bullying Movement & The Power We Have To Make A Difference

Want to be a part of the anti-bullying movement and make a difference? Check out this post to see how.
Did you know it’s pink shirt day today? It’s a day to raise awareness about bullying and originated in Canada due to a kid who was being bullied by his peers in school for wearing pink. His school decided to purchase shirts so students could wear them in his support and to discourage bullying at their school and it turned into a movement.
 
There’s no doubt that bullying is a worldwide and human problem that’s been around for centuries. Different countries have various days, some even have weeks, dedicated to raising awareness about bullying. The issue is though that it’s not something that can be solved in a single day. Also, it’s not a problem that only kids face. 
As a parent, you’re probably concerned about bullying. You probably want to teach your kids how to avoid it or not contribute to it. As women and moms, we can also be a part of the solution and start avoiding situations where we might unintentionally contribute to the problem. If we want to change the environments in our schools, we can start with discussions at home.
 
The fact is that anyone can bully and there are different levels. Chances are you have experienced some form of bullying at some point, whether it was a toxic social circle in high school or among former friends, or a work environment or a relationship at some point. 
 

Types of bullying

 
According to the Ontario Ministry of Education bullying takes on different forms. They include:
 
  • Physical – hitting, shoving, stealing or damaging property
  • Verbal – name calling, mocking, or making sexist, racist or homophobic comments
  • Social – excluding others from a group or spreading gossip or rumours about them
  • Electronic (commonly known as cyberbullying) – spreading rumours and hurtful comments through the use of cellphones, e-mail, text messaging and through social media.
 
Want to know how to be a part of the anti-bullying movement? Check this post out to see how.

How we as parents can be a part of the solution. 

 
For parents of little kids, we have to start with the basics. Kids can be great and are for the most part naturally loving and caring beings, but they also can get tired, cranky and upset too and not be on their best behaviour in such circumstances. Chances are there may have been times you’ve had to teach your child not to push, hit or take something from a friend or classmate in their early years. You explain why and try to teach them what’s okay and what’s not. As they grow older, they have to learn to navigate through various other social situations. But we also have to acknowledge that we as adults are also learning in life and we have to try out best to lead by example.
 

To help, we can ask ourselves the following questions:

 
How do we talk about people in front of our kids? Our kids can learn to model our behaviour. As they grow, their own life lessons and thoughts will also determine how they talk about others. But are we paying attention to what we say?
 
How do we treat people on a regular basis? Are we polite when addressing people, whether it’s the waiter, bus driver or school teacher. You might have the odd day where someone who has hurt you addresses you and you don’t want to talk or you have an argument with someone and also weren’t at your best…but it can help to explain to your child that you didn’t mean what you said and it wasn’t right, and you too will also try better next time.
 
How are we online? This is a big one, because what we say and share online can spread and have a much farther reach. If we say something hurtful online, it can have a massive ripple effect with unintended consequences for everyone involved, which can spread through local communities and multiple social circles. We need to also discuss this with our kids, regarding what they say and post online.
 
How are we treating other moms and women in groups? Are you part of a group that gossips a lot or spreads hurtful rumours about other women and moms? Sometimes it can help to remove ourselves from such environments. We too need to watch ourselves and others and leave or avoid a toxic environment or group of people that affects us. Ones that can bring out the worst in ourselves or others.
 
How do we deal with relationship problems?  For relationships, especially marriage and long-term partnerships, often marriage or partner counselling is needed and can help. In some cultures and social circles there is a stigma attached to receiving counselling and couples who need it most avoid it, creating a cyclic pattern that affects a lot of people. It can help when our kids see that we are actively trying to work things out, and they can in turn learn for future relationships. 
 
Do we make assumptions based on what others say or share? Things can often be misinterpreted. Have you ever had a discussion with a friend or your partner and then realized you both remembered what was said in the discussion quite differently? Or have you ever misinterpreted something someone said and then asked for clarification and realized you were wrong or slightly off? 
 
Do we contribute to Karma Policing, determining who deserves what and why? This is something to be aware of and watch for in ourselves and others. Karma policing can have a negative effect on everyone involved. Also, just because someone in a position of authority or someone with a high level of influence in a community says something, doesn’t mean they are always right, also question things and think twice before spreading information and gossip that is hurtful. It can and does have a ripple effect that others can copy or repeat.
 
Do we defend our kids if they’ve done something wrong or do we try to talk to them and explain why it was or was not okay?
If your kid did something wrong or was hurt and they hurt someone else in return, talk to them about it. Let them know everyone makes mistakes, but explain what is and isn’t okay and why, and talk about how can they do better next time.
 
Do we practice selective or collective kindness? Being kind to others who are kind to us is easy. How do we try to be kind to those who’ve upset us? It isn’t easy, but sometimes being polite and avoiding or removing ourselves from a situation is the best thing we can do. 
 
Do we forgive ourselves and others? If we have a healthy level of forgiveness for our own mistakes or can forgive others for theirs, our kids can learn from that too. Rather than expecting perfection from them or raising them to always expect it from themselves, creating self-doubt when they don’t always reach those standards.
 
Encourage, ask for and display unconditional love at home for your child and partner?  This doesn’t mean every day is going to great and happy go lucky. We all have bad days. Even if they weren’t at their best on a specific day, it can help kids and partners to be reminded they are loved unconditionally, even if you are upset after an argument or discussion.
 
 

Come from a place of understanding , but don’t be a doormat

 
The bigger question is how can we help our children build resilience and identification skills to deal with bullying. How do we teach them not to bully and build empathy, while also working on ourselves?
 
We can start by trying to understand and discuss why a person might be hurtful in their comments or actions?
 
Are their actions fear based or based on anger, hurt or unhealthy competition. Have they been hurt or are they experiencing some difficulty. Is the kid bullying your child at school experiencing difficulties in their home? Did your child bully or hurt another because they were upset?  Remember a time that you might not have reacted or been at your best or said a hurtful thing because you were hurt. Talk about the value of learning, growing and moving on. But also, discuss the necessity of boundaries.
 
Even recognizing why and having an understanding and being empathetic doesn’t mean its okay for us or our kids to be a doormat. If someone or a group at school is continuing to be hurtful or controlling, sometimes it might be best for us to evaluate the impact that school environment is having on our kid and removing them from it. Sometimes bullying behavior can permeate throughout a school and even teachers and staff might engage in it. Recognizing the problem is the first step, but doesn’t it mean our kids should have to tolerate an environment that is having a negative impact on them.

Encourage Open Discussions

 
Encourage open discussions but understand that your child might be afraid to speak up at school or online because of a fear of retaliation.
 
Let them know that receiving mental and emotional support and counseling is okay. We as parents need to remove the stigma.  
Lea Waters PhD a children’s mental health expert states “We immunize our children against known medical illnesses. Why aren’t we immunizing them against known psychological illnesses?”
 
Taking care of ones mental and emotional health should be something that is praised and encouraged for everyone, our kids and ourselves. But we also have to acknowledge that not everything is just a mental health issue….it’s a behavioural, cultural and collective one.
Many schools and college campuses are focusing more and more on mental health initiatives and offering counseling, support and additional programs, which is great. However not all are getting at the core problem, the cultural or collective problem of bullying and how that can permeate through an organization or community and affect teachers, professors and staff.
 
It’s actually normal for your child to be upset if they are a target of bullying at school or online, for whatever reason, and no matter how much counseling is offered, the problem might be the online, community and/or school environment that needs to change. Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem or low feelings of self-worth can be a result of a toxic school or home environment and can result in kids bullying or result in them being bullied. However, there are inspirational stories of people who have bullied others and/or been bullied themselves in the past who are now part of a broader movement to increase awareness and create change. We as parents can also be a part of that movement.
 
 
Helping our kids build resilience should be a top priority for schools, communities and families. But it is also something that we adults need to continually and actively work on in our environments too, whether they are work environments, home environments, social groups or our local communities. 
 
We’re all works in progress and everyone one of us has the opportunity to learn and grow. Being a parent means we are going to have address issues related to bullying with our kids and while we can’t protect them every step of the way in life, or prevent them from making mistakes, we can try our best to model positive behavior and let them know lessons we’ve learned in life too. Also, being there for them when they need and providing access to additional resources can make a difference.
 
 
For more resources check out the Pink Shirt Day website. This link has resources for parents and discusses what to do when your child is bullied, has bullied someone or witnesses bullying: https://www.pinkshirtday.ca/support-for-parents-teachers
 
There are also links to additional articles here in the Bullying Basics section: http://www.pinktshirtday.ca/bullying-basics.html
 
For more from the Ontario Ministry of education go to: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/safeschools/prevention.html
 
Photos via Unsplash courtesy of:  Priscilla Du Preez, Sharon McCutcheon & neONBRAND

 

Do you worry about bullying at your kid's school? Do you want to address ways to create change? Check out the post on the blog.

If you liked this post and found it helpful, feel free to choose a pin and share it on Pinterest! 🙂 Who knows, you might help another parent out.

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Are you concerned about bullying? Do you want to be a part of the movement to create change? Check out the post on the blog.

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