Bullying is a hot topic these days. In the classroom, in the media, at the dinner table. It's a loaded word, too. Kids know it – say the word 'bully' and you're going to get attention. Unfortunately, I think it's become one of those over-used phrases. Ever heard a mom complain that one toddler 'bullied' another? I sure have. Bullying isn't a 2 year-old grabbing a toy or pushing a friend out of the way. It's a serious, debilitating, sometimes deadly act of cruelty that doesn't have anything to do with the preschool sandbox.
So what should parents know about bullying? I'm not an expert, but I have enough resources and research to share a few things that might help prevent the bully-word overuse, and get parents thinking about how they can become part of the anti-bullying solution.
What is bullying? Different resources may definite it differently, but generally three elements are in play:
1. Aggressive behaviour involving negative actions
2. A pattern of behaviour repeated over time
3. An imbalance of power or strength
Not my child!
Maybe your child will never be a bully, or be bullied. But you can bet they'll be put in the shoes of the bystander during their childhood. How they react as a bystander can either escalate, or help break the cycle of bullying. It's a critical role for children to understand. Barbara Coloroso gives parents, caregivers, educators and most of all, kids the tools to break this cycle of violence in her book The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander.
What can I do?
1. Educate yourself – pick up a book, attend a workshop, read online and find out how to engage your kids in conversation about bullying.
2. Engage yourself in your kids' school – find out what the Safe Schools or Climate committee is doing this year. Offer to coordinate a parent workshop for your school or community. Many speakers will come free of charge to speak with parent or student groups.
3. Talk to your kids – keep dialogue open, make sure they know they can come to you and tell you anything.
4. Grow with your kids – just because you know how to talk to your grade one son about bullying doesn't mean you've got it figured out. Older kids spend more time online and cyberbullying is a form of bullying that has become a huge issue – you need to keep yourself educated and know where your kids are spending time – online and off.
5. Understand the legislation and your child's rights. The Safe Schools Act (bill 81) put into play in 2000 introduces itself by saying that "a safe school enables learning and teaching within an environment that fosters responsibility, respect and academic excellence".
Proposed new legislation (bill 13) in Ontario referred to as the "Accepting Schools Act" seeks (among other things) to further amend the Education Act, provide a definition of bullying, and include the prevention of bullying in schools in the provincial code of conduct. It's a hot topic in the legislature.
momstown's engaged in anti-bullying – we advocate for inclusion by building communities of parents and children across Canada. Social play and kindergarten readiness are a key part of our educational curriculum program.
Our chapter owners pride themselves on supporting moms and kids – our founder Ann-Marie was recently sought out by the Premier of Ontario! He was looking for feedback from moms on the front lines – from topics ranging from kindergarten to anti-bullying.
So we're here – we're listening, and we want to be part of the solution – starting with those little tykes in the sandbox.
Guest Post by Ally Cooper, momstown team.