Children deserve to go about their lives free of unwanted aggression. They need to be able to have a safe learning environment. Bullying can take a terrible toll. It can be disruptive and very harmful. We need consistent policies in place to educate students about its harm and to stop its practice.
What do we do about it?
You can help your child cope with the challenges of childhood by being a good role model and handling your own adult challenges well. You can take time to think before reacting, practicing some mindfulness in your chaotic world.
You can point out others who act as good role models and those who don’t. You can identify when someone crosses the line from civil and courteous communication to callousness, crassness, or cruelty and discuss other approaches that could have been taken.
You can do a bit of research. A good place to start is the site stopbullying.gov. There you will find a good deal of helpful information on the key role parents can play.
Be vigilant in monitoring changes in behavior and perspective. Stopbullying.org lists some warning signs to watch for including: declining grades or sudden disinterest in school, loss of friends, avoidance of social situations, decrease in self esteem, losing items of importance, changes in eating habits, difficulty sleeping, or self-destructive behaviors or attitudes. Any of these should prompt followup. Talk to your child if he or she displays any sort of behavioral or emotional changes.
Work with your child to develop a plan to respond to the challenges of bullying. Keep lines of communication open. Inquire into what is happening in your son or daughter’s world. Talk to individuals at your child’s school when necessary.
In a column we wrote in May, we referred to the work of Professor Justin Patchin, co-founder of the Cyberbullying Research Center at the University of Wisconsin. We suggested that research at the Center indicated that bullying was on the rise. More accurately, Professor Patchin concludes, “there is no clear trend that bullying overall has increased in the last five years, but bullying based on race and color may be occurring with greater frequency in recent months. More nationally-representative data collected over a longer period of time would be needed to better understand what is really going on.”
Professor Patchin writes, “the political rancor prominently portrayed on television and online provides an opportunity for parents and educators to teach appropriate discourse. Our children are paying close attention. They see our Facebook posts and overhear our conversations with friends. Hopefully what they see and hear is respectful and kind, even if the subject of the conversation is someone with whom we vehemently disagree.”
For more on this, see cyberbullying.org/trump-effect-bullying.
For more about the Cyberbullying Research Center, see cyberbullying.org.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of “Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @dads2dadsllc. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.