Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Do We Forget to Talk About Real Solutions When Talking About The Bullying Epidemic?

Several years ago, my family was impacted by bullying. Because we were able to find resources and solutions, we were able to move beyond the issue and thrive. After that, I realized that not everyone knows where to find solutions. October is National Bullying Prevention month and a time of year that we see instances of bullying spike in classrooms and communities. Nearly one in four children has been the victim of bullying[1] and 85 percent of the time no one intervenes to help[2].
Bullying is not a normal part of childhood and can no longer be tolerated in any form or excused as harmless teasing. As parents and educators, we are the agents of change to bullying behavior and the advocates for safer classrooms and communities for our children. We need to talk about the problem before it gets out of hand, before we see another tormented child on the evening news and before it’s too late for the victim. We need to understand the problem permeates every community and affects every family.
Most importantly, we need to talk more about real solutions.
A recent Harris Interactive survey of parents commissioned by Sears reveals that 73 percent believe parents are responsible for the prevention of bullying, 65 percent believe that teachers and schools are responsible and nearly 40 percent look to law enforcement for bully prevention[3].
Prevention doesn’t lie with one group, but rather society as a whole. Parents of the 13 million children who suffer from an acute bullying problem need a combination of stronger awareness programs, prevention through solutions that can be implemented at the home and school level and effective rehabilitation for bullies to reform their behavior. Further, we (parents and educators) need to start addressing acute bullying situations with effective solutions in the moment.
Prevention starts at home and continues at school. Parents should practice role playing exercises with their child so they know how to safely respond to a bully. The bullied child should be equipped with responses and actions to remove him or herself from the situation while still signaling that the bully’s actions will not be tolerated. Equally important, bystanders should be trained to safely intervene and adults who work with children should be required to receive training on bullying intervention.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, the first thing you should do is to make sure your child is safe, that he or she feels protected and that you are listening. Ignoring bullying does not work. Second, get the facts and document the incident. If there is even one episode where your child has been affected, parents should have a conversation with the principal, staff or teacher who was in charge when your child was bullied. From there, develop a plan to quickly solve the problem with your school.
Studies show that schools with anti-bullying programs that include solutions like those found via can experience up to a 50 percent decrease in bullying. A well-orchestrated school system includes prevention, reporting, victim support, consequence protocols, policies and reform/rehabilitation. Maintaining these systems is key to creating bully-free cultures in our schools.
In the simplest terms, whenever one child has demonstrated that the behavior from another child is making them uncomfortable or has asked that child to stop the behavior for the same reason and the child does not, on the second occasion it is bullying. Period.

Bullying is not a rite of passage, as many of us grew up to believe. But changing a culture and belief system can be hard. There must be an attitudinal shift to recognize that bullying can be solved. Solving the problem starts with access to information and empowerment to address the issue head on.
Earlier this year, Sears launched Team Up to Stop Bullying as the first bullying solutions and services coalition from a major retailer to provide immediate solutions that parents and schools can implement today. The program offers expertise from more than 70 leading bullying solutions organizations to help children who have been bullied find answers, give parents effective ways to prevent and resolve bullying and guide educators on how to establish bully reform programs at their school.
Team Up to Stop Bullying is providing access and empowerment and delivering real solutions to communities around the nation. As a nation, we have successfully changed widely held attitudes in the past and built a stronger and better place for our children. I believe we can do it again. Please do your part today.

Marie Newman
Bullying Solutions Family Advocate, Author, Mother and Business Owner, Director of Team Up to Stop Bullying.

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