Zero Tolerance Bullying
By Jo Frost
Zero Tolerance is what we need to continue practicing. In light of it being National Bullying Prevention month I wanted to touch on this subject, as I answer many questions from parents on how to stop their children from being picked on at school. This made me think that if every parent took responsibility to raise their child with more empathy and respect, then we would reduce this problem greatly. The facts show that children who bully can be children who witness aggressive behavior and abuse in their own homes. Those children have very low self-esteem. Those who are not encouraged and uplifted with genuine acknowledgement or praise, let us remind ourselves that there is a difference in the repetitive behavior that causes pain to someone else, via our actions, than the one-off comment of teasing.
If we as parents do our part, then we must start with education from an early age. We all know that toddlers live in their own bubble, it’s me, myself, and I. It is at that age that we start to shape the way our children think about others; teaching them on a daily basis about the world around them. Creating this appreciation and awareness for others is vital if we are to teach our children acceptance of all others, from all walks of life, that share the world we live in.
We can exhibit these examples in our daily routines, whether that’s taking them off to school or to the park in the afternoon. As we develop their socialization skills, each opportunity is a learning window to look at their behavior and to talk about how others feel, letting them know that their actions have an impact on others. These type of conversations support children thinking for themselves and becoming more mindful of, and accountable for, their own behavior. As this develops, we hope so too does their
Please understand that this doesn’t mean squashing strong-willed, determined, and feisty spirits; it simply means we channel their energy in a positive way. Teaching manners and respect, and teaching how their decisions and character affect others. Through my observations working with many different families around the world, I’ve noticed one universal occurrence: When two very young children act aggressive towards one another, parents tend to give them a pass, yell at their children to stop, and let them get on with playing again. Yet, if we saw two thirteen year olds do this, we would react very differently. Because being tiny in society is cute and adorable, it’s thought really young children don’t know any different — and we associate being older with knowing better. The reality is, unless children are taught better, and unless we as parents have a standard, how can we expect our children to behave any different?
They say “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.” And yet we know better than that old saying because what we say can have a dramatic effect on our children in their lives every day. As a parental educator, who overcame bullying through love and support (when I was bullied as tween-ager at age 11), I understand so much more now than what I did then, and why those children behaved the way they did. So I will leave on this note, with one of my favorite quotes from Maya Angelou, that I hope you will pass along to your children:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou