You know that the way you speak and act can influence your kids, but how do you know what actions or behaviors may contribute to bullying? Because bullying isn’t just between school kids on the playground or in the classrooms — it can occur between adults, too, whether it’s online, in the workplace, or even sitting in traffic.
Here are some things you can do to curb your own bullying behavior:
Talk to your kids: One 2012 study by Children’s Medical Center found that parents who communicate with their children are less likely to have children that bully others. Communication is as easy as asking your kids how their day was, what happened in school, or helping out with homework.
These conversations can be as simple as asking questions, like “Did anyone in your class have a hard time today?” If the answer is yes, ask your student if there was any way they could have helped, or what they do in the future. Even brief conversations present a good opportunity to come up with concrete solutions they can use later.
Making a concerted effort to spend positive, encouraging time with your kids is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your children don’t bully others, and that they’ll tell you if they’re being bullied.
Be a good example: Kids model their behavior after the behavior of important adults in their lives — including their parents, teachers, coaches, and other community leaders. Which means that your own bullying behavior, like name-calling, aggressive speech, or forceful behavior, might seem acceptable.
For example, the next time you feel angry because someone cut you off in traffic, instead of yelling or gesturing, take a couple of deep breaths and say something like, “It makes me feel really frustrated when I see people driving unsafely. When that happens I really have to take a deep breath to calm down because I know I need to be calm to drive safely.” This not only draws attention to your own feelings of frustration, it helps children see that there are constructive, safe ways to express similar emotions.
As Education.com points out, “Any time you speak to another person in a mean or abusive way, you’re teaching your child that bullying is OK.”
Help your kids understand what bullying looks like and how they can stop it: Bullying has a lot of manifestations, and some may be more obvious than others. Ask your kids to point out instances of bullying they see around them, whether it’s on TV, in school, or even in the home. Then, try role-playing or brainstorming about what they might do if they encounter bullying. Make a list of actions that can help stop bullying, such as safely intervening, telling a trusted adult, or otherwise seeking help.
Not only will empowering your student to speak up and take action help you become a more positive role model, it’ll also boost your child’s confidence — which has been shown to reduce the likelihood that they themselves will be bullied.
Make tolerance and inclusiveness a family priority: Students who aren’t being bullied hold the power to intervene and stand up for those who are – but only if they’ve been taught that it’s the right thing to do.
Talk to your children about acceptance of those who are different, and the importance of helping others who are in need. Ask them questions like “Have you ever seen someone get bullied for being different? What did you do?” If they answer that they didn’t intervene, come up with solutions for future events.
Another good way to lead by example is to volunteer at a local charity as a family. Not only will this expose your children to people who are different and in need, it will also empower them to help others.