This week an award-winning national speaker visited Great Bend to talk about the problem of bullying.
About 100 fifth and sixth graders from Holy Family School and its neighbor, Lincoln Elementary School, heard Mark Brown’s Emmy-nominated presentation “Words Count.” “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can break my heart,” Brown said. He cited a 2009 survey that showed over 100,000 children carried guns to school as a result of being bullied, and 160,000 miss school every day because they’re afraid of bullies.
There’s a website, StopBullying.gov, that defines bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”
A kids’ page on the same website has this definition: “Bullying is being mean to another kid over and over again. It affects everyone – kids who are bullied, kids who bully, and kids who see it.”
Is it common? You bet! At least 90 percent of the students who heard Brown’s talk on Tuesday indicated that knew of an instance where someone had been bullied.
The schools are doing their part, by talking to students about positive character traits such as respect, kindness, caring and responsibility. Parents and other adults can do the same, and display those traits in their own lives. When adults are aware of bullying behavior they need to act, sending the message that it is not acceptable.
Children themselves must take a stand against bullying. After all, most bullying and cyber-bullying doesn’t happen in front of grown-ups and isn’t reported. Even when it is, some adults choose not to intervene.
Here are some tips from the website: Kids who see bullying shouldn’t do anything that will put themselves or anyone else in danger. They don’t need to show off by insulting or threatening the bully, but if they feel safe they can tell the person doing the bullying that they don’t like it and to stop doing it. Later they can tell a trusted adult, such as a teacher, coach or scout leader.
The most important thing they can do is treat others the way they’d want to be treated.