Most of us have been touched by bullying at some point in our lives; whether we were a victim, a bully or know someone that was bullied. This is Bullying Awareness Week (Nov 15-21) and a good time to consider the importance of accepting who we are and talking about bullying prevention.
I was raised to “treat others the way you want to be treated.” This golden rule not only reminds us to be kind and empathetic toward others, it also highlights the importance of being kind to ourselves, showing ourselves compassion and trying to find ways to give ourselves some love. Having a strong sense of value for ourselves has a strong connection to how we think about others and how we act towards them. So perhaps it’s not surprising that most people engaged in bullying behaviours are likely suffering with their own self-worth. In fact, bullying is often a cycle of victims becoming the bully and going on and on. I believe we can break the cycle if we work on building people’s skills for taking care of themselves (physically and emotionally).
There are many forms of bullying:
- Physical – hitting, shoving, stealing or damaging property.
- Verbal – name calling, mocking or making sexist, racist or homophobic comments.
- Social – excluding others from a group or spreading gossip or rumours about them.
- Electronic (or cyberbullying) – spreading rumours and hurtful comments through the use of cellphones, e-mail, text messages and social media.
Naming and labelling bullying allows us to take another look at our own behaviour (in consideration of the golden rule) as well as the behaviours of our friends, spouses and children. How are we modelling positive social behaviours? How are we dealing with bullying from others?
As a society, we are seeing changes in attitudes towards bullying and these changes are resulting in initiatives that enable people to join together and stand up against bullying and unkindness to each other. Some initiatives include awareness and education for children of all ages in community schools across Ontario. In Waterloo Region, the WAYVE program (Wellness Acceptance Youth Voices Empowerment) is a youth-driven program discussing topics that are relevant to today’s youth which including bullying. Combatting cyberbullying is a program called THINK – a program that promotes respectful and responsible digital citizenship through positive use of social media. The acronym is a reminder to children that before they text, tweet or post to social media sites, they should consider if what they are sending is: True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind.
While bullying is a social challenge that has been around since humans have, if we focus on caring for ourselves and others by using empathy in our relationships, the rates and incidence will continue to decrease over time.
If you are worried about a child or friend, check in with them. If you’ve noticed changes in their behaviours including increased stress, sleep or changes to the norm, let them know you are concerned and be prepared to support them if they are struggling. And don’t hesitate to reach out to great resources like the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, or Front Door at 519-749-2932 for help accessing local mental health services for families with children and youth.