October is National Bullying Prevention month!
As a mom of four kids, this topic is very near and dear to my heart.
There is nothing more heart-breaking than being on the other end of a true bully. I can recall walking into school as a first-grader in a new town/state and encountering a boy that would relentlessly taunt me for months to come. First it started out as rude comments about my hair, clothes, anything really. This then grew to kicking me in the shins, which finally progressed to punching me in the stomach until I would lose my breath. I can recall telling the teachers and adults I knew. They told me things like, “He probably likes you”, or “Maybe he wants your attention”, and even, “Pray for him”. It was quite clear that I was not to respond to his actions. As time went on, my older sister (two grades above) had seen enough, and verbally made it quite clear to this boy that she would not allow this situation any further. And that was that. She marched right over to our principal and made him very aware of her feelings on the ordeal, and made that situation disappear. Later, in middle school, my ultra-popular spitfire sister also was my protector against some girls who relentlessly taunted me.
As a mom, my children have also endured and observed some bullies along their way in school. There was the shy girl who suddenly found her wings, and then made certain one particular girl was not made welcome at the lunch table any further. There was the athletic boy in the hallway calling another boy “gay” in a negative tone, with laughs. Comments about looks. Comments about grades. Comments about money. There was another girl that made it her daily amusement to mock a boy, blaming him for things he didn’t do, to increase her own self-worth. And the cyberbullying-a new way to bully at lightning speed. And while my kids have been generally pretty lucky, I could tell you some stories that I’ve heard that would shock you to the core…or maybe not. We all watch the news, right?
Children emulate what they live. What they experience. What they see. What they hear.
I have been in situations where I have been happily standing on a playground watching my child as they climb, overhearing some moms “discuss” their thoughts on another child’s behavior, clothing, abilities, parents, siblings, home, etc. I have stood at pick-up and seen the social engineering fast at work. We all have been witness to the parents “outing” a child that has special needs or an “issue” at home. There are birthday lists created by parents for their own benefit. There are sports teams chosen based on financial status. It goes on, and on, and on. It starts at the top and trickles down to the young.
”Careful the things you say, children will listen”-Stephen Sondheim, INTO THE WOODS
In my experience, bullying can and should be called out. It can be stopped. There are several things that can help put an end to this problem. It’s a problem for adults too, so we all should do our part to be warriors against bullying. The hard work starts at home.
*Teach kindness, and BE kind.
*Teach empathy, and BE empathetic.
*Teach compassion, and BE compassionate.
*Teach inclusiveness, and BE inclusive.
*Stand up for those in need.
*Speak up. If you hear something unkind, DO something. SAY something.
*Be the kind of person that you want your children to be.
*Reach out to someone isolated.
*Help others with their needs.
*Be a helper.
*Be understanding. Listen.
*Believe, and be supportive.
Remember, we are all in this world together. We are a team. A tribe. We all have gifts to share. Let’s lift each other up and celebrate each other, and make this the warm-hearted kind of world that we want our children to LIVE in.
Jennifer Montague is an NYC based Actress, Writer, and Mom to four awesome kids! Writing work includes the Mom’s Choice gold award-winning book series for children, Muriel’s World; The Irish Times; “Peppermint Dreams”-a free Podcast just for kids; the children’s musical recording, Peas, and Honey; and more. She is in two upcoming feature films: A Case of Blue; and Bully.