Kindness and other things to prevent bullying
Even though it's been years, I remember the punches like they just happened. I was in the fourth grade, and it was the last day of school before summer break. It was also my last day at this particular school, because we were moving to a new city over the summer.
As I walked out the door of the school, "Larry" and a couple of his "friends" were waiting for me. "Time for a goodbye punch!" he shouted at me, and proceeded to throw some of the hardest blows I'd ever felt in my then-young life. You can't imagine the pain - both physical and emotional - that I experienced.
And, of course, no teachers or other adults were around to see it. Not a soul.
Larry's punches were the culmination of a year of torment for me. He'd wait for me at my locker, or when I was coming out of the lunch line. He'd find me after gym class and take my clothes. On more than a few occassions, I had to go find them in tha hallway, where other people would stare and giggle and lots more things hurtful to an eight or nine-year-old boy.
Today, Larry's treatment of me would be called bullying - and it is still going on in schools, with far greater frequency and, in some cases, more consequences than just a little humiliation. What people may not have known when it happened to me, and know more now, is that bullying can lead to depression and anxiety, isolation and feeling lonely, to name a few. I know I felt those things for a LONG time.
But teachers and other adults are more prepared today to notice and nip bullying in the bud. Adults have lots of tools available to them to spot the signs, stop the activity, and get both the bully and the bullied any help they need to deal with the actions and their consequences.
So, what can you do today to stop experiences like mine? Here are a couple of things:
- Help kids understand bullying. Talk with them about what it looks like and ways they can stand up to it in a safe manner and how to get help.
- Keep talking. It's important to keep the lines of communication open and check in with kids. Hear what they are experiencing, and learn about their friends, too.
- Be a model. Try a little kindness and respect with others so children see and model good behavior and treatment of others.
October is Bullying Prevention Month. Learn the warning signs and the effects of bullying. And where you can, step in to help end the cycle. Some may call it "life learning", but bullying can be really harmful in lots of ways. Watch our social media over the course of the month to learn more.
I wish some adults had been there for me years ago, but that's water under the bridge to me. Now, it's my turn to help others learn from my experience. Maybe you can do the same.
For more information about bullying and how you can work to prevent it, visit stopbullying.gov.