This week I’d like to write about something a bit different from my usual healthy lifestyle topics. As a parent, I feel I’d be remiss in ignoring something we’ve seen making headlines in recent months and a very real problem for many of our children–bullying.
Due to recent media exposure on this issue, many school districts around the country are taking it seriously. "Anti-Bully Zones," along with severe punishments for those who target other kids are becoming more common, but we’re still seeing a surge in abuse, both physical and emotional, that has devastating outcomes. It doesn’t help that the Internet and social networking give bullies another channel to harass their victims. While I encourage every parent to be active in your community to ensure the proper rules and penalties are in place to help reduce or eliminate this problem, I believe we as parents must also convey the proper messages to our own children at home.
No parent wants to think their child would bully another, but it happens. Take my kids for example. I have always preached tolerance toward others in our house, yet when they were 11 I received a visit from a neighbor with some unpleasant news. My kids, along with a few others from the block, were teasing a younger child and throwing worms at her. After I got over my initial shock and embarrassment I immediately dealt with the situation. I wanted to make certain they realized how nasty they had behaved and ensure it wouldn’t happen again. Apart from being grounded for the week (no T.V., no video games and no outdoor playing), I had them accompany me to the child’s house so they could apologize to her and her parents in person. I also had them write a paper on why what they did was so wrong and how they would feel if they had been in the little girl’s shoes.
Our family hasn’t had any issues since then, but I regularly talk to my kids about bullying. We’ve discussed the recent news of the teen who committed suicide as a result of being targeted by another group of girls. The thing I stress over and over again is tolerance of others. We use the term EMPATHY–put yourself in that person’s place and think about how you would want to be treated.
Trust me–your kids will listen to you if you make it a priority. Recently, John came home from school and told me he received a demerit for being late to class. I figured he was fooling around with friends, but it turned out he was helping another kid with his locker. Seems the boy has some learning disabilities and is occasionally made fun of by his peers. John saw him struggling and stayed to help him. I told John I would never be upset with him for being late when it’s a reason like that. I’m proud of him–he did exactly the right thing.
Take a look at a recent "About the Buzz" that highlights obese children and their increased risk of being targeted by bullies. We have some valuable advice on how to decrease that risk for your child.