Since Camp Friendship started over forty years ago, we’ve learned a thing or two about cooperation. To get along with others it helps to practice open communication, understanding, respect for others, responsibility, accountability and kindness. Hopefully we can all see how important it is to promote cooperation and most importantly how we need to work together to help our children grow and flourish in a positive environment where they can feel comfortable and safe.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. I don’t think our problems with bullying will go away without our becoming more aware of what’s going on in our homes and communities with our children. We need to be discussing causes and possible solutions and implementing them. Visit http://www.stopbullying.gov/ to know more.
Bullying is an intentional aggressive behavior towards a person or persons by someone perceived to have more power. It is usually someone picking on someone else who most likely won’t or can’t stop them. It might be physical, verbal, or emotional. It can happen out in the open, away from the public or online. Kids can be mean. They can say or write mean things, and sometimes it can be snarky, sarcastic or teasing meant to be funny. But there’s nothing funny about demeaning another person, or showing disrespect towards someone just because you can. Yet for some bullies it’s a way to show off, and usually their acting out for a reason. In a video I veiwed the other day, the phrase “hurt people, hurt people”, gave me food for thought. The reaction for some to bully a bully is not addressing the problem. The action itself needs to be stopped.
Kids who bully aren’t bad kids, but need to understand why their behavior is unacceptable and hurtful. They need to get help to stop this behavior. Many times schools, camps and even families are unaware of the bullies or who the victims are. We need to create an environment where kids feel safe to report situations and become more aware and informed so we can prevent bullying in the future.
Many times a victim will not talk about it, so it’s important to notice changes in behavior that could signal that your child is being picked on. Kids who’re bullied often become anxious and diminish in self-confidence. Help your child if they’ve been bullied by being their advocate and try not to be judgemental. Talk to teachers or other adults and try to work as a team to resolve the problem. Kids need to be able to speak up safely to stop the cycle of aggression. Get them engaged in activities they love and that make them feel good about themselves. Praise their strength, courage, and perseverance.
Also difficult, is when parents find out that their own kid is the bully. If you find out your child has been exhibiting this type of aggressive behavior, take the opportunity to be the example of a good empathetic friend. Talk about it and your expectations. Keep looking for good resources to understand the problem better. It’s so important for all of us to be good role models and show our children good ways to deal with conflict and frustration. They watch how we talk about people and interact with people. If kids see us act mean or aggressive towards others, admitting to the child that we were wrong and shouldn’t have acted that way helps them learn what to do in their own friendships.
It’s too easy for kids to feel isolated in today’s world. They need to know there is help and that someone cares and notices what’s going on with them. We have to be conscious of our children’s social skills and give them opportunities to practice dealing with their emotions, showing respect to others and learn how to assert themselves in positive ways with their peers. They need to know help is available to guide them through challenging circumstances. Sometimes that’s hard at school with limited time and supervision. That’s why it’s necessary to encourage team sports or other positive situations.
The unique experience of camp is just one thing that helps. I have seen kids progress in just a few months at summer camp, communicating better and building self confidence through their accomplishments individually and with team activities. The important thing is for each of us to do what we can. Let’s work together to be the example, and to help our children practice understanding and kindness. I’m so glad that the discussion is out there and not being ignored. Our kids are, and our future is, counting on each of us to help prevent bullying and promote caring and respectful behavior.