The only way to reduce bullying is for parents and teachers to take an active role in teaching and role modeling respect for other people to the children in their lives. Most “bullying” is due to a lack of respect for another person, plain and simple. Teaching children how to respect their peers will render bullying nonexistent. Bullying has become pandemic in the classrooms, on the playgrounds, and throughout social media; that is why I devoted many chapters in Uncommon Core to respect, kindness, compassion, happiness, apologizing sincerely, picking good friends, and standing up for themselves and others.
When parents are proactive in teaching and role-modeling respect, teachers have very little work to do with those students. One of my favorite students was a young man who was smart, respectful, and friendly to everyone:
He never associated with students outside of school who were making bad choices, but he was always kind to them. I asked him one day how he was able to be friendly with all students without getting caught up in the teenage drama that seemed to be rampant at school. Without hesitation, he told me what his mom taught him: “It’s nice to be smart, but it’s smarter to be nice.”. . . The smartest thing parents can do in every aspect of their lives is to be kind to others and model that behavior for their children. (Chapter 6: Teach Them to Respect Their Peers)
Another adage I use with my son (I also use it in my classroom) is to “Honor the untold story.” Ian doesn’t have to be friends with everyone, but he must be respectful to everyone:
I remind him that we cannot know what another child is going through or why he or she is acting, dressing or saying the things he or she is saying. There could be a lot of pain in that child’s life and saying something mean will only exacerbate that pain. (Chapter 6)
Children also need to know that there’s a big difference between wanting to be friends with everyone and picking friends wisely. Wanting to be popular will lead to bad choices and disrespecting other people to achieve that popularity:
Unfortunately, the unwritten social rules in school teach children the art of self-preservation – children figure out quickly who not to upset, how to stay under the radar and with whom not to be friends. . . . Once someone wants to establish his or her power in a peer group, he or she will find a weaker child to belittle. If more children were taught at home to stand up for weaker or more innocent people, we could end bullying in schools. The only reason a bully has power is because other people let it happen. (Chapter 11: Teach Them to Stand Up for Others)
The anti-bullying programs in schools will have little influence on students if the adults in their lives are not teaching and modeling respect.
For other responses to this month’s discussion go to Huffington Post