As our community begins another year, it's important for us to take a moment to ensure we are doing all that we can to prepare our students for success and a positive experience in their schools. However, we also need to make sure that we are preparing for the social and emotional demands that are placed upon our kids as they grow in the entrusted environment of their school. Inevitable disagreements and conflicts with other classmates will arise, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is part of the process of learning how to navigate the reality of interpersonal disagreement and conflict throughout their lives. Occasionally, however, these disagreements and conflicts may escalate into something unhealthy and destructive. They can become malicious and targeted toward a specific person or group, and therefore transitions into bullying.
Today we hear more and more about bullies, and it’s not like it was when we were in school. Today we have the internet, and cyber-bullying has emerged as a topic of conversation as well! The Center for Disease Control defines bullying as, "... any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated." According to data obtained by the US government, 28% of U.S. students in grades 6–12 and 20% of U.S. students in grades 9–12 have experienced bullying. Interestingly, even more young people, approximately 30%, admit to bullying others. What are we teaching our children? What should we be talking to them about? It becomes clear that there are many important conversations to be had with our children. What should you do if you or one of your classmates is being bullied? Also, how can you act and respond toward your classmates in a way that ensures that you are not bullying others?
The Center for Disease Control, the American Psychological Association, and stopbullying.gov, which I recommend, provide resource information and guidance on risk factors, warning signs, the effects and prevention of bullying, as well as information about how communities can get proactive and be responsible to this issue. Through education, and acknowledgment that bullying is an important issue not to be overlooked or ignored, we can, and should, make a commitment as adults to teach our children a better way to interact with others. We can better prepare our kids to have the educational experiences we promised them and that they deserve. For more information about bullying and what you can do to address it in your neighborhood, school, or community, please visit one of the websites listed above, and share your knowledge and experiences with your community.
Paul Fitzgerald, Ph.D
NovaPrana Founder and President