Jan. 7, 2011: Adults must help children find new ways to confront bullying, by Beth Whisler

January 7, 2011 by

“Just kick ‘em in the shins and run!”

That was the advice that my dad received when he was an 8-year-old boy.

Many years have passed since my dad faced a bully during his childhood and now children face even more difficult situations. We read about young people posting cruel and untrue remarks over the internet, children in restrooms having their pictures taken by others with small handheld phones without their knowledge and children being the brunt of very vicious pranks. These children feel understandable humiliation and embarrassment when they are bullied.

What are some factors that produce a child with bullying behavior? Some little children grow up in homes where there is a lack of attention and warmth, where there is violence by their fathers to their mothers or where there is inadequate supervision at home and school. These are just a few of the many factors.

Relational aggression is something that will continue to occur in the future, however. So what can be some ways to confront these problems?

A “no tolerance policy on bullying” and a code of conduct in schools that directly references appropriate behavior and unacceptable behavior can be important. Close monitoring of children needs to take place in schoolyards, hallways, cafeterias and locker rooms. Older students monitoring younger students can be another way. Families wanting support in working with their children can contact school psychologists, principals, or counselors. Students not engaged in bullying need to be encouraged to speak up.  Loudly and firmly telling kids that are picking on others to cut it out can make sense. Students may benefit from classroom discussions over books about bullying. Some students will be more likely to talk about characters in a book, as opposed to talking about situations that they are dealing with.

Also, can we as adults, examine our own behavior at home and at work? Are we promoting peace — or just the opposite?

As an 8-year-old child, my dad only used one tactic when dealing with his bully. Today we can generate even more ideas that can discourage cruelty and encourage peace.

— Beth Whisler is an instructor of psychology and allied health at Cloud County Community College.

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