CHAMPAIGN - CHAMPAIGN -- October is National Bullying Prevention month so Jolie Carsten, Clinical Director with Elliott Counseling Group, gives us five tips for parents and school staff.
When any child reports bullying, let them know that you believe them and that it’s important to you to help. Provide a clear definition of bullying and a clear expectation that it’s wrong. 70% of 6th-12th grade students have experienced bullying and 40% have participated in bullying.
-Avoid labeling children as a bully or a victim.
Instead use person first language: child who was bullied or harassed, child who was bullying or harassing, or children who witnessed the bullying or harassment. This focuses on the behavior as a mistake and allows the possibility of making different choices vs. labeling the child as a bully which can become part of their self-image and a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Do not think or say it’s a normal part of kids being kids. If you do not intervene, you encourage the bullying or harassment. Teach kids to be an upstander instead of a bystander. Encourage reporting bullying to an adult. Encourage children to avoid being an audience for bullying. 75% of bullying incidents involve 4 or more witnesses, but only 25% of bullying incidents result in a witness intervening.
Talk openly and frequently about the importance of respect for others, including people who are different from you. Model that behavior and speech yourself. Intervene when you hear other adults or any children talking disrespectfully or even hatefully about any individual or group of people. This includes race, ethnicity, religion, physical or mental ability, socio-economic status, etc. Provide lots of praise for positive peer interactions, especially for the child who has been bullying.
-Model healthy ways of responding to conflict and frustration.
Reflect on your own thoughts, feelings, and choices when you are frustrated or encounter conflict. Are you modeling the type of thinking and choices that you want your children or students to imitate? Consider implementing mindfulness/meditation as a family or at your school. Remember that punishment teaches us to avoid getting caught and doesn’t teach us to make healthier choices. First we have to take responsibility for our actions and reflect on our thoughts that lead us to those actions. Then we can choose to think and act differently. Counseling can help children, teens, adults, couples, and families to identify their thinking errors and make healthier choices.