I’ve been thinking about bullying quite a bit lately. After hearing about the teenagers that felt driven to suicide after being bullied, I’ve been thinking about my own teenage years and what life will be like for my daughters.
A lot of celebrities have been coming forward the past few weeks telling stories of their own experiences with bullying. They are raising awareness and money for a couple of different bullying charities. Which is where things got me stumped, because I didn’t just want to throw money on the problem and hope it goes away. I wanted to actually DO something to help my girls grow up and have bully-free lives. Anderson Cooper said the other day that bullying is so much more dangerous now due to the internet. These days bullying never stops – you used to be able to get away from it by leaving school, but not it follows you home on the computer.
I looked around on the internet and most articles were about how to help the victims of bullying. Which are obviously VERY important, but since my girls are still so young, I am very interested in how to make sure that I don’t RAISE a bully.
I did find this article by Michelle LaRowe, which offers some great ideas:
How to Avoid Raising a Bully
1 – Teach your child to respect other people. All people are different and your child will need to learn to be tolerant of all of those who cross his path. Teach your child that different doesn’t always mean right or wrong.
2 – Foster an attitude of empathy and caring in your child. Many bullies lack empathy. Teach your child to notice how his behavior affects others and ask him to “put himself in her shoes.” Point out when people are hurting and encourage your child to offer help. Ask your child how he thinks a hurting person may feel.
3 – Set clear boundaries for how to treat people. Even if your child does not like someone, it doesn’t give him a license to be mean. Teach your child that all people deserve respect, safety and kindness and require your child to be courteous to all.
4 – Use non-violent methods of discpline. Your child will live what he has learned. If you hit your child, he will hit others. If you scream at your child, he is likely to scream at others.
5 – Nip any bullying behavior in the bud immediately. Have a no tolerance policy when it comes to bullying behavior. As soon as you notice that your child is displaying aggressive behavior, stop it. Boys tend to be physical bullies while girls often spread rumors or exclude others. Immediately address any behaviors that display aggression towards another child and enforce strict disciplinary action for those behaviors.
It’s tough being a parent, because you worry about your kids constantly. When I see Emma push Charlotte around at home, I worry about her becoming a bully. When I see her being shy and scared around new kids at school, I wonder if at some point she will be bullied. It’s a scary world these days, and I want to raise happy, self-confident and assertive girls who feel comfortable talking to me about their lives.
***Edited to add***
My friend and fellow photographer Krista Webb sent me a note after reading this post. She had a great idea about keeping communication open with her daughter:
When she was about 9 or 10 I gave her a “Top Secret” journal that we pass back and forth…under our pillows. So if she wanted to chat about something embarrassing or if she was worried that I was going to be pissed she could write it instead of saying it to my face. This is also gave me some time to process and not over react to some of the more risque questions she had along the way. We barely use it now because she just comes to talk now but if something comes up that is really out there she’ll still leave a note. Plus I’m a huge note writer anyway so I still leave them for her. I know WAY more than any of her friends parents…(more than I probably want to know!!) but at least she talks. I am shocked at what some of the kids are doing and shocked at how little the other parents know of their kids. She even fessed up a few times and it’s a good thing she did with the journal or I would have blown up when I first heard. At least the book gives me time to think.