teach our kids to stand up to bullying

Let’s Teach Our Kids to Stand Up to Bullying

We don’t like to think about bullying, and we certainly don’t want to think of our little ones as being capable of bullying. Yet, rather than decreasing over the years, bullying has increased in our society, and so has its drastic effects. Since International Stand Up to Bullies Day is coming up, we figured it’s worth looking at how to teach our kids to stand up to bullying and how to avoid being bullies themselves.   

Why focus on this effort?

It does seem that bullying tends to decrease as kids get older. But in the United States, one out of five kids between the ages of 12 and 18 are bullied each school year. That’s still a lot. And that’s what gets reported. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that most bullying is even reported.

There are actually two awareness days of this kind each year. One is in February as part of an entire week focused on anti-bullying issues. The other is a day in November. It’s an ongoing effort to keep up awareness on this difficult issue.

The history of this day is actually pretty great. When a high school student in Nova Scotia was publically picked on for wearing a pink shirt, some other students went and bought 50 discounted pink shirts. They asked their classmates to wear the shirts the next day. The 50 shirts were worn, as well as other students’ own pink shirts to overwhelm the school with pink and support the bullied student. This large-scale statement received notice in both Canada and the United States. So by the next year, the International Stand Up to Bullies Day had begun. And it is still a day to wear our pink shirts..

What we can do about it

We often think of bullying as being a physical issue. But it isn’t only about physical threats. Most bullying is verbal. The old sticks-and-stones adage doesn’t work when a person is worn down with unkindness and seemingly true cut-downs. And a lot of this bullying happens online.

So how can we teach our kids to stand up to bullying when we usually aren’t around when it happens? There are some core character qualities that have been shown to prevent both bullying and being a victim of bullying. And here they are.

Empathy

Bullies are able to justify their own behavior because they do not have empathy. When you teach your kids to consider how someone else may feel about things, you teach them to stand up against bullying. An empathetic person is very unlikely to feel comfortable threatening or mistreating another person. And an empathetic person is more likely to stand up for someone else, like the pink shirts guys did. While this might seem obvious, let’s not discount its importance. Every one of us can crumble under a difficult situation when we feel alone in that situation. But with support, we can deal with that difficult situation with more strength. When we know that we have friends and that we have help, we can stand up to difficulty so much better. It’s important to know you are not alone. 

So let’s teach our kids to stand up to bullying by teaching them empathy. The Feelings section in our Signing Time Dictionary is a great tool to use in teaching empathy. Check it out here.

Inclusiveness

Another character quality that will help our kids avoid both sides of the bullying issue is inclusiveness. Again, this is something that we really must teach our kids. Our society is so stuck on “canceling” people, and that is really a form of bullying. Consider our pink shirt friends. They did not rise up against the bully. Instead, they supported the person who needed support. They chose to be like him by wearing pink shirts, and in doing that, they included him.

Our kids need our guidance and our example in learning how to be inclusive. We humans naturally gravitate toward those who are just like us. And so we must be intentional in our efforts to be inclusive, and our kids need our help. So when we see our kids pushing someone out of their group, let’s ask some questions about it. When we notice new kids in our neighborhoods or social circles, let’s help our kids feel confident in reaching out to them. And let’s be the adults who reach out to include others, whether they are just like us or not.

Awareness

Lastly, let’s teach our kids to stand up to bullying by teaching them awareness. Let’s teach them to look around and notice people. We can do this at the grocery store, at the park, at the library, at school, really anywhere we go together. 

Awareness leads us to acceptance, and this helps all of us. When my daughter was quite young, she saw a cashier with pink hair. So she whispered to me about how she liked the lady’s pink hair, and I told her that she should tell her that she liked it. My daughter said, “I like your pink hair!” and it made that cashier’s day. That lesson has stayed with her, and she regularly lets people know if she appreciates something about them. It always makes them smile. And this all comes from awareness, from noticing and appreciating things. 

So, starting with this year’s International Stand Up to Bullies Day, let’s teach our kids to stand up to bullies by teaching them empathy, inclusiveness, and awareness. And let’s be good examples of these things ourselves. It really can make a huge difference for them. 

At My Signing Time we consistently promote these values of empathy, inclusiveness, and awareness. Positive, educational programming is an easy reinforcement for these important lessons you’re teaching your kids. Come take a look at what we have to offer with a 14-day free trial!

 

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