We must take responsibility to teach our kids how to be agents of change when it comes to bullying. These conversations should start when kids are young.
How are you empowering your kids to end bullying and be agents of love in the world? We want to know and so does your ICM community! So, share your thoughts in the comments below.
The Epidemic of Bullying
According to the National Center of Education, as of 2016 more than 20 percent of students reported being bullied.
This statistic is staggering, especially considering the many ways bullying can affect students’ wellbeing. Targeted children often suffer from poor grades, sleep issues, anxiety, and depression.
In grades 6 through 12 alone, over a quarter of students have experienced bullying. Further, electronic bullying has become a huge problem in the past decade. Hand-held and other devices afford bullies constant, anonymous access to victims.
Also, we can’t forget to consider the students doing the bullying. They’re at a much higher risk for a whole host of issues that could extend into adulthood, ranging from violent behavior to substance abuse.
What Is Bullying?
Bullying is a pattern of harming and teasing others. Those who are in some way more vulnerable than the bully become victims. It is a deliberate and repeated attempt to cause harm to others of lesser power.
The Importance of Connection
Bullies themselves have strained relationships with parents and peers. They are made, not born, and it happens at an early age. Patterns of bullying emerge if even the normal aggression of 2-year-olds isn’t handled with consistency.
Overall, bullies tend to lack behaviors that nurture social connection. They are often untroubled by anxiety and struggle to understand others’ feelings. And bullies commonly misread the intentions of others.
Creating a Growth Environment
Less bullying takes place in environments that make connection possible. When students understand one another and feel safe to be authentic connection increases, which lowers rates of bullying. So, create a space where kids are safe to be themselves.
Challenge Day, an organization aimed at transforming through compassion, has served over 10,000 schools and impacted 1.5 millions students around the world. They spend a day with students doing activities that “provoke deep internal insights and empathy for others.” And they work to “create a genuine connection between people and promote the experience of belonging.”
Creating Connection within Your Students
Encourage Critical Thinking
Students are less likely to bully others when they can see ideas and problems from multiple perspectives. So, as you lead discussions with your students, invite them to think beyond assumptions. Likewise, make space for different opinions by asking open-ended questions and showing gratitude for each answer and idea.
From the earliest ages, children should take part in activities that boost social-emotional learning. Empathy is the practice of putting yourself in another person’s shoes, imagining their experience.
Assist children and youth in learning this skill by asking questions that encourage emotional reflection. As emotional awareness increases, one is more likely to be compassionate with others.
Lift Up Uniqueness
As a mentor, find ways to help children understand and appreciate their identity as well as others’. Kids are on a quest to establish who they are and what they’re about. Give them opportunities to express this in tangible ways.
For example, perhaps incorporate artistic expression into your year with them. Photography, art journaling, sculpture, painting, and poetry can be instrumental in helping children and youth find their unique voice and value the way God has made them.
Empower Kids for Change
- Be sure your students know how to spot bullying. The first step to prevention is knowing what it is.
- Discuss how to respond if they see bullying happening.
- Compile a list with them of people they can report bullying to.
- Get familiar with their school environments. Ask questions about their social setting.
- Keep your eye out for exclusion and teasing in your children’s and youth ministries and call it out.
- Connect on social media with your students as a friend and advocate.
- Teach your students how to engage in healthy ways online.
Don’t forget to share in the comments how you’re empowering your kids to end bullying and be agents of love in the world!
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