October is National Bullying Prevention Month

By Beth Brennan

We are not powerless when it comes to preventing bullying from happening.  October is national bullying prevention month and serves as a reminder for schools and communities to reflect on what work still needs to be done to raise awareness for bullying prevention, and support those who have been impacted by bullying behavior.  We can accomplish this goal by educating ourselves and our children.  

The first step is to acknowledge that bullying does exist. Once acknowledged, we also need to understand that bullying is about power - bullies are often seeking ways to assert and or maintain power, and that it tends to be a social act.  When families and schools come together to put a stop to bullying, they show that they are committed to building safe learning communities that deeply believe bullying is socially unacceptable.  

Parents are their children’s first teachers, and play a central role in preventing bullying and stopping it when it occurs.  Here are a few suggestions for how you can support your child:

  • Model and teach your child peaceful strategies for solving problems
  • Be kind and talk about the Golden Rule

  • Give your child needed feedback when they respond to social situations to help guide them into making good choices

  • Build up your child’s confidence and self-esteem by teaching them to have good eye contact, walk with confidence, and look for positive ways to connect with others

  • Take any changes in behavior, and comments made by your child seriously

  • Talk to your child’s teacher and school administration about any situation that feels unsafe for your child in school

  • Involve your child in outside activities to make friends in different social circles

  • Teach your child nonviolent ways to deal with a bully like walking away, getting a safe adult to help, seeking other friends to play with

  • Encourage them to be upstanders and not bystanders when they see or hear unsafe language and situations occurring in or out of school

Your child’s school community must also commit to actively preventing bullying from occurring in school by working towards building a safe and caring learning community.  Teachers should treat each class as a community where every member is valued and included.  Students should participate in creating classroom rules, and be held accountable for their behavior.  Schools must also commit to giving students the tools to be able to maintain safe relationships with classmates and friends throughout their time in school.  

If you find yourself in a situation where you must bring a bullying incident to the attention of your child’s teacher and or school administrator, you should expect to be heard, and for the school to investigate and work towards resolving the problem.  The saying, “it takes a village” certainly rings true in how we all must support children to grow into being responsible and empathic adults.