In last week’s post, we started a conversation about identifying the real issue behind bullying. This month is National Bullying Prevention Month, and we think the problem is worth not only a good conversation, but also a genuine cooperative effort between schools, communities, parents, and students.
One thing’s for sure. Bullying isn’t primarily a behavior issue. It’s a HEART issue.
Unfortunately, when we address bullying as simply a behavior issue, we may get conformity—but without genuine personal transformation.
Frankly, we don’t think that’s good enough.
Poster contests and slaps on the hand are NOT going to change the heart issues that lie at the base of bullying behaviors. What are? Early training and ingraining of healthy relationships and character (i.e., developing healthy attitudes, behaviors, and decisions). If that doesn’t happen in the home, we can all help in other arenas like school, church, community clubs, sports teams, and neighborhoods.
Here’s how you can invest in kids to encourage and empower them to develop healthy heart attitudes toward others:
- Help children understand both active and passive bullying, to instill awareness and empathy (e.g., beating someone up, taunting them, or posting online ridicule is active bullying; deliberate exclusion is passive bullying)
- Invite students to become a part of the solution by defining and modeling a positive culture of integrity and kindness, and holding each other accountable
- Mentor the bullies on the heart issue, not just the behavior (here, counselors can get to the root cause of the insecurity or desire for control that’s driving their actions)
- Schools should strive to develop a strong Personal Leadership Foundation in their students to combat bullying before it happens and foster healthy learning environments for all. Doing so will require an active school commitment to character and leadership training.
- Help students understand that deliberate acts of unkindness are the manifestation of our own insecurities. Calling it out this way may make bullies think twice and lead to the needed conviction and change.
- Teach that the most successful and admired people go out of their way to build up others, not tear them down. (Imagine if students said only neutral or positive things about one another!)
One complicating factor is that “bullies” don’t always fit into a neat profile—and bullying can strike in seemingly unlikely places. The following video, first aired on The Today Show, is a good example. In this case, it’s an ultimately transformational story of how a couple of high school bullies had a change of heart and went on to become anti-bullying advocates. I wish every bullying story turned out this way:
This could be my town or your town, our schools, our kids. If it happens—do you have a plan?
What is your school, family, organization, or community doing to address the heart issues behind bullying behavior? Please “share” this post with friends, and comment here on our website. If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for our e-newsletter. We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!