Part 1: Introduction
We never want to see children bullying other children! “Bullying,” in any form, is hurtful to those being bullied and can have lasting effects on a child’s social and emotional development. Children can be quite unkind to each other without it being called “bullying,” and what we discuss here can apply to all forms of unkind behavior.
Children bullying other children not only robs them of a happy and healthy childhood but can further lead to a child’s inability to form healthy and lasting relationships with his or her peers and can cause lifelong emotional scars into adolescence and adulthood.
Our message in the Superheroes Club Book series is clear: it is about helping, sharing and caring, being empathetic, and enjoying childhood. But, for many children, this message is not their reality.
So, if we agree that “bullying” is an unacceptable behavior, how do we help our children recognize it, understand why children do it, and encourage our children to not engage in it, while empowering them to intervene when they see it happening?
Obviously, it is not easy for young children to recognize or understand all the ways that kids bully or are mean to other children, or why they do it, and it is an even harder thing for them to stop it when they see it.
As parents, it can be challenging to navigate the world of bullying and to know how to appropriately deal with the topic, whether your child is the one doing the bullying, the child being victimized by bullying or the bystander who is not sure what to do when they witness bullying. When we talk about “bullying” in this post, we mean the gamut of actions from childish meanness to the cruelty we have seen with teenagers and the internet. No form of unkindness to each other is acceptable, and teaching that starts with our kids.
No matter in which category your child finds himself or herself, we have suggestions to help you address this topic of meanness.
First, we, as adults, need to recognize the many ways that children can hurt other children.
It is not just the name-calling or the physical confrontations at school anymore. It is much more subtle and destructive in many ways.
Ignoring fellow classmates, whispering behind someone’s back, intentionally leaving children out of activities, passing hateful notes or spreading hurtful rumors, especially on social media, are all examples of the kinds of “bullying” that children experience on a daily basis.
And now with social media, it is even more widespread and more hurtful and damaging.
Sometimes children will act out when they, themselves, feel unsafe or insecure. They might be experiencing problems at home or at school but keep their true feelings hidden. This may lead to unkind actions and bullying of other children when they are, in effect, really crying out for help.
It is therefore important that parents, teachers, and other adults in our community be aware and recognize some of these signs in children so they can address the problem at the source and hopefully prevent it from escalating to a level where children feel the need to redirect their hurt toward other children.
If we look at our superhero, Lily, we realize that she could never be a bully. She is such a happy, confident, and independent child. With her positive outlook on life and her natural instinct to help others, she would not engage in meanness and would certainly not tolerate someone around her being “bullied” by another person.
What Lily does instead is inspire and empower other children to do “good” and share and care about others, which includes befriending them and intervening if they are being bullied.
Lily’s personality and unique character traits enable her to be that anti-bullying, anti-meanness superhero.
So, how can we help our children follow her lead and be real superheroes like her? How do we support Lily’s efforts and our own children’s efforts to stop bullying and meanness when they see it, in a smart and safe way, as Lily does?