The school year has started and it is inevitable that somewhere on the playground at your child’s school, there will be bullying. While I would like to imagine a world with no bullying, no hurtful words, no discrimination, I know that world doesn’t exist.
Were you ever bullied? I was never bullied in elementary, junior high or high school, but that all changed in college, yes, bullying even happens in college. I have very fair skin and I don’t tan, so that was an easy way for people (especially men) in college to tease me, because I was different. On the outside, I never let it bother me; I laughed and joked right along with them. But inside, it tore me up; I often wondered how people could be so cruel.
I witnessed bullying in high school and although I never participated, I also didn’t go out of my way to help or befriend the person being bullied. In high school, one of the boys that was a victim of constant bullying committed suicide.
A classmate was one of the boys that always teased him and he didn’t feel one bit sad to hear that the other boy had committed suicide. That same classmate of mine is now a parent, I wonder how he would feel if the roles were reversed and it was his child being bullied, hmmm.
So, how do we help teach our young kids about bullying and how to prevent it? First of all is respect, kids can’t model respect if they don’t see it or feel it in the home.
In our house, we tease, joke around but we also respect each other. We respect spoken words, boundaries and more so when the respect is broken we apologize. By apologizing, we are telling each other that we went too far and disrespected them but are sincere in admitting our faults.
I talk quite often with my boys about being a hero. Doesn’t every one want to be a hero? By standing up for a friend, when mean words are spoken by others either in the classroom or playground your kids are modeling strong and brave behavior — a hero! I’ve also told them if they are uncomfortable confronting the bullies, to go to a teacher or other adult for help.
I found an interesting article about bullying on playgrounds and a small study done in Israel. In a three-week study, 56 students — 11 and 12 years old (32 boys and 24 girls) — were handed a questionnaire after their daily 20-minute recess, reporting if they had been bullied, gossiped about or felt uncomfortable on the playground. The first and third week, it was just a regular recess time, the second week, there was soothing background music played. The first week, there were a number of children who reported feeling bullied or uncomfortable. During the second week, when the music played in the background, bullying was significantly decreased, children felt less anxiety.
The third week, there was more bullying reported than the second week, but much less than the first. What the researchers noted is that the effect of music played every day could wear off, but periodic music could help keep bullying to a low level (information from PSmag.com). This was a very small study, but one that might be worth pursuing on a larger scale.
Most importantly, talk with your kids, find out about their day. Get to know their friends and their friends’ families. Listen when they want to talk. Spending even 15 minutes a day talking with your child about their day teaches them that you are always available to listen. Help them be a hero!
• Leah Derewicz is a 15-year Ahwatukee Foothills resident. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.