Stop Bullying Now: Respect is the Key
Bullying has become an epidemic in our schools. However it is defined, bullying is not just child’s play, but a terrifying experience many American school children face every day. It can be as direct as teasing, hitting, or threatening, or indirect as exclusion, rumors, or manipulation. During the past decade, bullying has become more lethal and has occurred more frequently than it had in the previous two decades. Bullying can no longer be explained away, as some adults are inclined to do, as a normal part of growing up. Bullying has only harmful, not beneficial, effects for the target and the perpetrator- even the bystander. Many children in our nation’s schools are robbed of the opportunity to learn because they are bullied and victimized daily. Bullying exacts a terrible toll on children, and the scars can last a lifetime. (nea.org). Today we will be discussing how building the character quality of respect in our students will help reduce bullying in our schools today.
I have spoken to hundreds, maybe even thousands of students, parents, and other teachers during my thirty years in education, and I am still amazed by this one comment I hear from all of them: “I will give respect when I get respect.” In other words you give me respect first, and then I will give you respect. Respect is something that everyone wants to give conditionally. yet get unconditionally. Students in school and society in general believe that freedom of speech allows them to say anything they want to anybody. They can, but there will be consequences. Once people are not held accountable for what they say,the behavior will continue, and in most cases get worse. They will not only believe that they can say what they want to another person, but do what they want to another person as well. As adults we teach children that “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you.” This comment couldn’t be further from the truth. Name calling, picking on others, mocking, and humiliation, does hurt and needs to be dealt with. Because of this lack of mutual respect in schools, and in society over the last thirty years, bullying behavior has become a major issue and needs to be dealt with now. The problem is bullying is merely a symptom; it is the surface problem that everyone observes. The root problem is having a total disregard for the rights and privileges of another person- true disrespect.
In order to effectively deal with bullying in schools, communities, and in society, respect needs to be taught as the foundation of good character. Bullying and disrespect go hand in hand. Bullying involves at least two people: The bully and the victim. The bully likes to feel strong and superior, and enjoys having power over others. Bullies like to use their power to hurt other people. All bullying behavior centers on disrespect. Bullying is done to hurt another person with the hurt being unprovoked, and is repeated and consistent. If you would like to know if a child is being bullied, or it is just normal kidding around between two kids, ask if both parties are laughing at the comments being made; if not, bullying is present along with disrespect.
In order to stop bullying behavior in schools, a comprehensive program to build respect must be in place with activities that promote respect in the classroom. This starts with developing a climate where everyone has something nice to say to one another. Classroom teachers have to teach children to do this on a daily basis; kindness prevents bullying. Students should be taught to praise another student’s character; this too will foster a climate where bullying will not be tolerated.
Research supports the fact that bullies have come from homes where they were bullied either by their parents or other siblings. They come to school with an angry attitude and are looking for victims all the time. Bullies need a consistent educational environment that has consistent rules and regulations, balanced with compassion and understanding. Teachers should have clear expectations, and then consistently hold to them.
Bullies as well as all students need to hear the truth at all times. We need to be sincere and honest, and let students know when they are not following the rules, and when our academic and behavioral expectations are not being met. Too often bullies get away with their behavior because teachers are either intimidated by them or by the bully’s parents. The truth needs to be spoken regardless of any adverse reaction expected from the bully or the bully’s parents.
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