My daughter’s elementary school works particularly hard at emphasizing treating others with respect and encouraging a positive attitude towards diversity and differences, hoping to instill the traits of respect, responsibility, honesty and kindness at a young age. I love it. Not all kids feel safe at their schools, not all kids feel valued. Halloween is coming and this brings me to the scary topic of bullying.
Despite a more “modern” attitude towards bullying than the old “boys will be boys” or “that’s just how kids are,” bullying still happens and many adults as well as kids have no clue how to discourage or stop it. And these days hidden bullying occurs through the internet. A couple books have come to my attention lately that deal with bullying. The first is called “Bullycide in America,” a powerful book compiled by Brenda High – an adult book that would be good for teachers, school administrators and counselors to read and, of course, parents of any child involved in a bullying situation. “Bullycide” contains researched information about bullying experiences, and it is eye-opening to see how some of these victimized kids not only don’t know what to do, but are afraid to talk about it or when they do talk they are not taken seriously by well-meaning adults who feel it will just go away or that next year things will be better. The title of the book indicates that these kids are susceptible to suicide in order to end the torment. Bullying is not something that can be taken lightly.
The second book, “Four-eyed Phillip” by Cynthia Dwyer of Thumbprint Press, is a colorfully illustrated children’s book that would be excellent for reading, especially in a classroom setting, to encourage discussion of the subject of bullying. At the end of the book is a series of questions that a parent or teacher can ask to draw out thoughts, experiences and solutions. “Four-eyed Phillip” can be the start of an important conversation.
It is important for all parents and teachers to talk about how people are different physically or developmentally or in personality, and that all deserve to be treated with respect. It is important to teach our kids not just to be accepting, but to understand the importance of being welcoming and supportive of a child who is new in town or feeling left out or being victimized. Kids (and maybe adults, too) need to learn techniques that can be used to help stop bullying. It is not as difficult to stand up against a bully if there are a lot of people standing along with you. Learning about bullying is not just for victims, but for all of us who may someday be called to stand up and help.