October was National Bullying Prevention Month established to support all our kids in learning healthy social emotional values, and to keep them safe. And while we’re teaching bullying prevention to our kids, bullying is on vivid display in the current presidential campaign.
Bullying of children and teens is a destructive force that causes untold pain that can be temporary and short lived, or last a lifetime.Bullying of children and teens is a destructive force that causes untold pain that can be temporary and short lived, or last a lifetime.Click To Tweet
At the extreme, some bullied youth have been so humiliated that they’ve taken their own lives.
I’ve worked with many adults who were bullied in their childhoods and still suffer depression, anxiety and injured self-esteem taking a toll on their fundamental ability to enjoy their lives.
In marked contrast to the values we want our kids to demonstrate are the antisocial behaviors and values being demonstrated in the current presidential campaign.
- Mr. Trump has actively used name-calling and humiliation to injure the legitimacy of his opponents.
- He has accused Mexican immigrants of being rapists and murderers.
- He has implied that we should not trust Muslims or people of Middle Eastern descent.
- And most recently the Billy Bush video emerged where he was recorded expressing entitlement, as a function of his fame, to sexually assault woman.
A disturbing effect of this discourse is an increase in bullying and harassment in our schools and not surprisingly, this is being termed, “the Trump effect.”
Many minority youth, including US citizens, report high levels of fear and insecurity related to the political discourse.
Enough on Mr. Trump!
The larger issue is what this says about us as a culture, and what it promotes in our culture.
- What values do we esteem?
- What behaviors do we want to see in our society and in our leaders?
- Why did we legitimize his candidacy when he was bullying and insulting his opponents and delivering insults to people of non-European descent?
It must also be noted that amazing acts of kindness and personal sacrifice to help others and help society in general take place in both the adult and youth worlds on a daily basis.
Many people choose to live their lives dedicated to helping at risk people or in the course of a day, without thinking twice, go out of their way to help others. And yet, in the current climate, the loudest voice is an antisocial voice.
We must seize this moment as an opportunity and a responsibility to look at ourselves and clarify our values.
- Do we want to teach our youth one set of values and live by another set?
- Can we glorify and validate antisocial behavior in the adult world and at the same time, promote mutual respect, kindness, and diversity in our schools to our children?
It makes no more sense than getting drunk every night and telling our kids to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
What steps can we take?
We can talk with our kids about these values of kindness, respect and diversity, not once, but often. Teach them by demonstrating them, and by discussing both positive and negative behaviors that we and they exhibited or witnessed.
A parent could open a discussion with:
“What acts of kindness did we witness or perform today?”
“What behaviors did we witness or perform that did not exemplify positive values?”
After all, we all fall short of our ideals and acknowledging our shortfalls helps us get better.We all fall short of our ideals and acknowledging our shortfalls helps us get better.Click To Tweet
Let’s make sure our children, tweens and teens know who to talk to when they experience bullying. If you see your son or daughter acting unkindly to someone, even a sibling, talk with them about it and use it as a time to teach and reinforce these critical values.
Make sure they know what to do if they experience bullying, including:
- How to stand up to bullying and set personal limits
- Who to go to for help
- How to stand up for others being targeted
- How to report the bullying of others
Kids do great when they have a mission and a goal, so let’s invite and empower our teens and tweens to join us in being warriors for kindness, mutual respect, and diversity.
From an empowered position and with a mission, they will both be safe and help others be safe as well.
Let’s use the current political climate to look inward, talk with each other, and talk with our kids about our values, our behaviors, and our society.