When some older high school students noticed their classmates bullying a younger student for wearing a pink shirt, they decided to do something about it. The answer seemed simple to them. They went to a local discount store and bought as many pink shirts as they could hold. They next day when the bullied student arrived at school, he noticed that everyone was wearing pink shirts. This simple show of support from the majority of students in that school showed that even small gestures can go a long way to halting to bullying.
Stemming from a small school in eastern Canada, the pink shirt movement has grown into an event! Supporters wear pink on February 24th as a symbol to stand up against bullying through kindness and compassion.
Standing up to bullying can be a difficult and sometimes scary task for many young people. Giving your family the tools to recognize and stand up to bullying is the best way to stop it. Here are six ways to put a stop to bullying.
1. Be the Example
Prevention of bullying starts at home. As a parent, make sure you model appropriate behaviour when interacting with others. When interacting with peers, family members, colleagues, and the general public, it’s important to model respect, tolerance, and most importantly, empathy. Your little ones are sponges and pick up social cues from their biggest influence… which is you. By setting an example of how to treat others, you’ll give your children a strong foundation for when they are on their own.
2. Don’t be a Bystander
A large portion of students aren’t repeat bullies or aren’t on the receiving end of being bullied but they’re the bystanders. It’s important to tell your kids that being a bystander contributes to bullying. Instead of being a bystander, teach your family to be “upstanders”. These are people that stand up for themselves and others. If your children witness someone being bullied, instruct them to stand up by:
- Finding a teacher or adult to help.
- If you can’t find one in the moment, report what happened to an adult after the incident.
- Stand in and tell the bully to stop.
If your children see a fellow student being bullied on a regular basis, encourage them to reach out. By sitting with them at lunch, inviting them over for play dates, and taking time to talk to them at school, your child can make that person feel included. A recent study by the Youth Voice Research Project found that in over half of the cases where a bystander spent time with or talked with a victim, things got better for the victim. This just goes to show the power of inclusion!
3. Get Involved
Parents and children alike can find ways to get involved in their communities to ensure that children feel safe. Take some time to chat with your school’s administration to see what kinds of policies and strategies are in place to prevent bullying. Talk with your principal and Parent Associations to see how you can support the work they are doing. Besides helping your children to be great ambassadors for the prevention of bullying, see if there’s a way to help beyond that. Volunteering for an event or starting a group that helps to stop bullying is a great way for your family to get involved.
4. Listen and Recognize
As a parent, one of the most important things you can do is listen to your child. Start a dialogue with your child about their lives at school. Often, children are embarrassed or scared to bring up something they may be struggling with. By establishing regular opportunities to talk with your kids, you’ll be able to build trust and also learn to gauge when something might be bothering them. Listening to not only what your children say, but also what they don’t say can help you determine if they are experiencing bullying.
Signs that your children may be the victim of bullying are:
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Anxiety over going to school
- Lack of interest in friends or social situations
It’s also important to determine if your child is not a victim but possibly one of the bullies. As much as we inherently love our children and sometimes find it hard to imagine that they could be bullying other students, it’s important to remind ourselves that everyone can be a bully, even without knowing it. However, recognizing signs early on will help normally great kids change their behavior in these situations.
A study by Violence Prevention Works found that 60% of boys who frequently bullied others in elementary school had criminal records by age 24. This is a scary stat when you consider that many people think bullying at that age is natural part of growing up.
Talk with your children not only about respecting others but about demonstrating empathy. Learning to see the world from someone else’s perspective goes a long way in preventing bullying.
5. Encourage Kids to Do What They Love
Putting a stop to bullying also includes prevention and preventing bullying comes in many forms. Children that have strong support systems will be more resilient to bullying attempts. Find out what your children love to do and create ways to nurture that love. Taking part in activities, sports, and hobbies is a great way for kids to meet new friends and interact with people that share the same interests. Interacting with others will help build confidence and provide outlets to communicate with kids outside of a school setting. Additionally, having a passion will give your children other outlets to deal with potential negative situations at school.
6. Understand the Power of Cyberbullying
Technology has given us new and exciting ways to communicate with people beyond traditional boundaries. Unfortunately, with technology comes new forms of bullying. Unlike other forms, cyberbullying occurs 24 hours a day and can be relentless and aggressive. It has become one of the more pervasive forms of bullying in society as it has the power to reach kids in the privacy of their own homes while they are sitting right beside their parents.
Cyberbullying can rear its head as:
- Sending hurtful emails, texts or voicemails
- Breaking into email accounts and sending inappropriate messages under the identity of the victim
- Engaging in instant messaging to trick the victim into revealing private information, only to then send it out across the Internet
- Using social media to bombard someone with hurtful messages, images, and more
Here are a few ways to combat online bullying in your household:
- Remind children to not share passwords with anyone.
- Create rules around how your children use their technology, including limiting access to their technology and when and where they can access it.
- Most devices offer settings to block online bullies or report negative comments. Show your children how to use these settings.
- Understand your children’s online world by taking the time to see the social media platforms they use and websites they visit.
- Use programs or services that have safety controls that parents can adjust and monitor. For kids’ video streaming, Kidoodle.TV has many features to ensure children aren’t exposed to negative content.
Above all, talk to your children about how to be safe and ethical online. This resource is a great tool to walk young people through the pitfalls of cyber interactions.
You can find more information on Pink Shirt Day here. For more tips on bullyproofing your child, check out our past blog post here and our Pinterest boards, Don’t Be a Bully and Online Safety Resources.
Lastly, take some time to watch Dino Squad season 1, episode 6 on Kidoodle.TV. In this episode, Buzz is a victim of a school bully and the Dino Squad tries to help the situation without fighting back. This is a great opportunity for a conversation starter about ways to stop bullying without resorting to physical violence.
How does your family deal with bullies? Has your child been a victim of bullying? Comment below to let us know what you think.
~ Alicia & Jeremy