Hello friends! Yes, this is another story about bullying and yes, another excuse for you to say “bullying was going on when I was a kid and will always be going long after I die.” The truth of the matter is that bullying will always exist, but that is not a good reason to simply ignore it as many parents do unfortunately.
“Not my kid,” is the most common response I get from parents when I do bullying workshops across the country, to which I always respond, “Yes, it is your kid.” Even if you know without a doubt that your child is neither bullying nor being bullied I am going to tell you that your child is still playing a role, just as each one of us played a role when we were kids. The only difference is there are many more variables involved in bullying today. So if you are a parent of a K-12 student or even planning on becoming a parent, this message is for you!
Up until the invention of the bittersweet Internet, there were basically three types of bullying: physical, verbal and psychological. Physical bullying involved doing one person or group of people doing physical harm to another person’s body. These shoves into lockers, punches, and in some cases beatings are what most people associate with bullying and while it was the most noticeable it is certainly not the only kind. Verbal bullying is when a bully’s mouth abuses another individual. This can be done in various ways that puts down another human being…physically, mentally, emotionally, economically, spiritually, you name it. Psychological bullying is intimidation. There may be no physical or verbal abuse going on, but a person can use one’s presence to create an ongoing uncomfortable environment for another human being. An example of this can be a bully who is much bigger than his target and may not be physically or verbally harming this individual, but is creating a fear every time he/she is near this other person.
So while each one of these three types of bullying still exist in today’s school systems and even among adults, we now have a whole new beast to deal with when it comes to bullying and that is cyberbullying. This is quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of bullying because it gives the bully a chance to hide behind a fictitious name, passwords, etc. Whether it be posting nasty rumors, photos that have been doctored, or just simply mean words about another human being, cyberbullying can now be put into the same category with the other three types of bullying. It is being done through the computer (Instant Messaging, Facebook, Twitter, etc), cell phones (texting), iPads, you name it. If you can communicate through it, you can bully through it.
Even with all the programs, all the tragedies that have resulted from bullying, all the “zero-tolerance” policies that are in place, bullying is still very prevalent in our schools, yes, Verona’s K-12 schools. So again you may be saying, “What more can we do,” to which I respond by challenging you to begin asking a different question. Each and every parent out there, I challenge you to ask yourself, “What more can I do as a parent?” Yes, there is always more that schools can do. Yes, kids will always be kids. And yes, there is no manual when it comes to parenting. It is pretty much on-job-training, right? Well, with this daily training to be better parents, I want one of those lessons to be to identify what role you played in school and what role your child or children are playing in school today. You will have four choices. Please make sure that you fully understand all four roles before simply assuming what role you played growing up, what role you play now, what role your child or children are currently playing, and what role you would like your entire family to be playing.
Before I get to the four roles, please understand that every role is related to self-esteem, what I believe is the basic foundation to every human being. It begins when we wake up in the morning and look into the mirror. What do you see in yourself? What does your child see when he or she looks into the mirror? What words do we have floating in our heads throughout the day that translate into beliefs about ourselves? Our self-esteem, our self-confidence has been and will always be a work in progress, but don’t be discouraged, it can be healthy and positive with there always being room for improvement. On the other hand, one can have a very low self-esteem and be quite negative when it comes to his or her self-confidence. Just know that through our greatest power, our power to choose, we have the power to change. This begins with us as parents to make peace with our own mirror reflections, to understand where we stand with our own self-esteem/self-confidence, and the messages we are passing along to our children. A healthy and strong self-esteem is the best offense when it comes to assuming a leadership role in a bullying environment and a healthy and strong self-esteem is the best defense when it comes to deflecting bullying.
So here are the four roles and do not say that you nor your child fits into any of these roles. We all, whether you are 5 years old or 105 years old, fit into one of these categories. The question is, which one will you choose to be in starting today. Yes, it can be that simple, but YOU, as an individual and as a parent, need to take action. Click on each link to read that section.
Scott Chesney is a motivational speaker and life coach, Verona resident, husband, and parent of two children. You can reach him at [email protected].