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There's No Such Thing As A Bully: The "B" Word

The author shares her views on talking to kids about bullying.

It’s been my experience that many school administrators avoid using the “B” word. Despite the statistics, some don’t want to admit there might be “bullying” in their school. Sometimes they’re concerned having an anti-bullying workshop may lead people to believe there’s a problem. Perhaps there is a problem and they’d rather deal with it “discreetly.”

I can’t really blame them all that much. I’ve seen parents scream at teachers, administrators and bus drivers. A person would be crazy not to try and avoid that kind of hostility. Still, we have to put the kids first. Children are being bullied and educators need to step up—regardless of the inconvenience or consequence.

The truth is many parents avoid the “B” word, too, that is, when it comes to their own children. Some are more than willing to slap a label on “the other kid,” but since I’ve been doing bullying workshops, I’ve only come across one parent who willingly shared a concern her child was being mean, or bullying others.

Do the math. There’s more than one.

I had such respect for that mom who stood up, admitted her daughter was not perfect and asked for help. She was building the girl’s character and strengthening her understanding of what’s right and wrong—a life lesson.

That’s good parenting.

Over the past year, I’ve noticed most kids in my workshops don’t immediately identify their own behavior as bullying—even when it seems so clear to others. They seem to be missing some very basic information. Some bad behaviors have become “acceptable.” This message usually begins at home. This time, it’s the parents who need to step up.

We can't overuse the “B” word or it will have no meaning, and sometimes focusing too much on the negative is rather like watering a weed. I don't mention it in my books, but it comes up in my workshops. We need to let our kids know “bullying” is not acceptable, remove it from the garden and give more room for the good stuff to grow.

When I step into a classroom, my goal is to plant those seeds. I'm hoping to reaffirm the basic definition of good character one hopes every child learns at home. But unless the soil is fertile, nothing will grow. Unless there have been specific conversations about simple concepts like the fact that you have to be respectful of and courteous to everyone even if they are not your friend, the message may fall short. 

For educators, it’s the same thing. They can’t lead a classroom unless we send our children to school with the understanding their teacher is a trained professional who deserves respect. My husband and I remind our kids it’s good practice for when they grow up and have to respectfully do what their boss asks them to do instead of learning firsthand what the word unemployment means.

I use the “B” word with my kids, but along with what not to do, I try to clearly define good behavior and stress exactly why it’s so important. Our children certainly aren't perfect, but if I didn't expect them to show general respect and good character to those around them, I'd be doing them a disservice. Children who don't develop these skills don't do well in life.

Anything less than our best efforts to help the next generation learn these life lessons is simply unacceptable.

Taryn Grimes-Herbert is a screenwriter, performer, the author of the I’ve Got character-building book series for children, and was 2010’s Woman of Achievement in the Arts Honoree for Orange County, NY. Calling upon her professional acting experience on Broadway, film and television, she speaks out and takes her books into classrooms hoping to help kids build character, develop empathy and learn to create a positive future through creative dramatics activities.

Her books can also be found on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.

For more information visit: http://www.ivegotbooks.net, Facebook or Twitter.

Aunt Sandy November 17, 2011 at 02:00 PM
At a recent school event a clinical child psychologist told me that bullies are 90% the result of domestic abuse at home. If that is the case, how can all these anti-bullying programs make much of a difference, except raise awareness?
Taryn Grimes-Herbert November 17, 2011 at 04:39 PM
Exactly, Aunt Sandy! That's why I also focus on helping kids build a resistance to bullying when I'm doing my workshops. I want to help children who are being targeted rise above it and move forward. When my son was being bullied, my family learned firsthand that you can't change the behavior of other people's kids. Instead, we focused on building the confidence and self-esteem of our son, and helping him understand his own strength and potential. By doing that, we took our son from severe depression to looking forward to his future and realizing his current situation was temporary. He's thriving now, 4 years later. At the same time, we made it clear to both of our kids that they were required to treat people respectfully--no matter what. Unless parents make this clear at home, nothing will change.

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