Bullying – Changing the Dialogue

Have you ever been made fun of? Called a name? Told you aren’t smart enough, strong enough, pretty enough, “normal” enough? Talked about? Teased? Shamed? Judged? Made to feel like you are less than someone else? I’m going to guess that you said yes to at least one of those things (if not more…or even all). Now think about if you have ever done those things to someone else. If you’re honest, I would think that you would have answered yes to at least one of those too. Well there you have it…you have been bullied and you have been the bully. We all have…we’re human, it happens (and it doesn’t feel good).

In our society today we would be hard pressed to find someone who has NOT judged, mocked, or even belittled another person…especially when we were kids. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say (and I’ve probably even said it myself), “They are just kids. It’s what they do.” But what if we changed that dialogue. Didn’t make it acceptable for kids to name-call, make fun of or put their hands on another child. Taught what it means to be empathetic and sympathetic. Stopped making excuses for bullying behavior.

These days this may feel like an insurmountable task, as we have allowed our country to slip into the hands of a bully. Regardless of your politics it is virtually impossible to deny that our commander in chief is the absolute definition of a bully. He name-calls. He belittles. He mocks. He threatens. He throws insults around with no regard for anyone but himself. The irony that the First Lady’s focus is supposed to be an anti-bullying campaign can’t possibly be lost on anyone. The whole thing is laughable. What message are we sending to children? If a child is bullying someone and they say “Well, the President does it…”, how are we to respond?

I will tell you how. By having ZERO tolerance for any type of bullying behavior. Period. If you see it, hear it, or are even told about it…have a conversation, give a consequence, explain the profound effect that it may have on someone’s life, make it absolutely unacceptable. Find ways to show children what kindness, compassion, and empathy look like. Teach them to stand up for those who are being bullied and stand against those who bully. Share stories with them about the good things that people are doing in the world. Have them volunteer with you, so they can see that people in need are simply people who have been dealt a bad hand. Show them videos/pictures of those who are different from them, whether it is people with disabilities, children from other countries, communities with different socio-economic conditions. Make them understand what it means to be a decent human being. And most importantly, explain to children that just because someone (like the President) bullies doesn’t make it ok for them to do it. Use the old, “If they jumped off a bridge would you do it too?” – that always worked when my mom used it.

This is why I have been (very lovingly) shoving the #imkinderthanthat message down my nieces and nephew’s throats. If we can teach children early enough to be empathetic and compassionate, to stop and ask themselves if what they are doing or saying is kind, we could actually see a paradigm shift. Bullying behavior is NOT inherent in children. It is learned. The sooner we start owning our own kindness (and unkindness) and passing down those lessons to the children in our lives, the sooner we will see the change come. And don’t you think that it is our duty as adults, and human beings, to make the world a kinder place? Who’s in? #imkinderthanthat

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