There has been a lot of talk about bullying lately and it's made me think about what the future holds for my two little boys. How can I prevent them from being bullied? How can I make sure they don’t become the bully?
It’s a scary world we are unleashing our kids into. When they go to school, you aren't there to help them through every bump and they need to learn how to manage and cope without you. You have to be able to put your faith in the teacher and school and hope they have your children’s best interests at heart. Then of course, when they are even older, there is cyber-bullying to tackle.
The harsh reality is that some of our children will be bullied and some of them will become the bully. So our job as parents is to prepare them for what lies ahead and to mould them into resilient little human beings that understand compassion and can think for themselves. No pressure moms and dads…..no pressure!
I believe that to set the stage as it were, there are 4 core values, or cornerstones, that need to become a part of our everyday lives. In doing this, we can shape the way our children see the world and hope that they become strong and independent; to ensure that they have inbuilt foundations for coping with the harsh world that we know they will become a part of.
How to Prevent Bullying
A Loving Home
As best we can, we need to make sure our children are brought up in a loving environment. Children who feel loved and valued at home emulate that in the classroom and in their friendships too. They need to know home is a “safe space” - that mom and dad are always available to listen to them and talk things through.
Instil Values from a Young Age
Integrating values into our everyday lives is something that will shape our children into compassionate little souls. Teaching them about respect, integrity, peace, love etc will help them to know the difference between what is wrong and what is right.
As a mom of a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old, I've started with respect and love. For me, manners and discipline fall directly under respect. We teach them that there are rules in our house. If someone breaks that rule there are consequences. One of the discipline gurus, Derek Jackson, talks about not having too many rules, so we have a few concrete ones and structure our day around them.
I believe that a child who learns manners and listening skills from home will follow that through to school. If they learn to respect their parents, they learn to respect their teachers and their friends. They learn how to develop sound relationships with friends, and children that can form sound relationships are less likely to be affected or influenced by bullies.
How to Treat Others
We need to teach our children to treat everyone with kindness. In an ideal world where people are kind to each other, there is no place for bullying. When they are toddlers and preschoolers, we teach them to take turns and share. They need to learn to be kind to animals; what to say and what not to say to others. We teach them that making someone else feel happy actually makes you feel happy too.
Our children are like parrots, they learn and copy behaviour from us. If children are taught that it's ok to laugh at someone who looks funny, or it's ok to talk behind someone's back, then they will do those same things. We are our children’s first teachers and they will learn through our behaviour. If they see mom or dad doing it, then it must be ok: it must be ok to laugh at the new kid with glasses; it must be ok to talk back to the teacher. It must be ok. Well, it's not ok and we are in control of teaching them that.
To link to the previous point - we need to teach our children to understand that it is ok and normal to be different - from colour to culture to learning difficulties and appearance - if they are taught to accept and “normalise” these from an early age, we are eliminating the need to tease and belittle others about being different.
When I taught, before becoming a stay-at-home mom, I had the privilege of teaching a little boy with Down’s Syndrome. He was integrated into a “normal” classroom and it was an incredible year of teaching. He taught the other learners so much. They learnt that it's normal to all be different, that it’s normal to all learn at a different pace, and they embraced it. If we can teach our children this, then acceptance becomes a part of their lives and is ingrained into everything they do. Then surely, in an ideal world, there is no place for bullying?
How can we ever know/predict what the future will hold for our children? We can only plan, think, read and research as much as possible and be open and honest with them at every step of the way.
My hope for my two boys is that they become resilient and strong enough that they will be able to cope with whatever life throws at them. This task is a daunting one, but as long as we remember that our children are always watching and listening to our actions, behaviour and words, then, if we change the way we act, behave and speak, we can work towards a future filled with kindness. One without bullying.
About the author:
Wendy Louw, a qualified teacher and mom of two, is passionate about teaching kids with learning disabilities and believes in patience, love and consistency in parenting.